Q&A: Jail booking reports – electronically would be nice


From Pilot-News (Plymouth):

Q: I’ve been having some issues with Starke County releasing jail booking/police report information. They will allow someone to access the information, but the reporter has to come down to each station (Knox city police, Starke County sheriff’s department, and North Judson police) and hand-copy the information.

Is there a way we can get access at least to the jail bookings electronically?

A: Unfortunately, there is no legal obligation for a public agency to send records electronically under the Access to Public Records Act, even if they already are in that format and it would be a matter of attaching the file and sending an email.

Question for you: Why aren’t they giving you copies instead of requiring your reporter to make notes?

IC 5-14-3-3 requires them to provide you copies, allow you to make copies on their equipment, or use your own scanning devices. Are you trying to avoid copying fees?

Regardless, I recommend you try to put together an argument as to how much time/manpower it would save each department if they would merely electronically share the jail bookings list, dispatch log, etc.

Unless they are hell-bent on making it hard for you to get the news, law enforcement agencies generally will go along with a system that makes it easier for them, particularly if it involves officers who could be on patrol rather than in the office babysitting a reporter making notes from copies the staff had to print.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.