Over the next week, leading right up to the Massachusetts Legislature’s August recess, we’re publishing a piece every day in a blog series highlighting “fast facts” about the failings of our state’s public records law. It is our hope to keep the story focused on why action needs to be taken as soon as possible and to urge a vote on Bill H. 3665, an act to improve public records, in both the State House of Representatives and Senate before they leave Beacon Hill for a month. To read the full series and more from this campaign, go here. To petition your legislator in support, act here!
Here is “Fast Fact” #2:
After recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other locations across the country, open police records and accountability in law enforcement are becoming increasingly important discussion topics. It is sad therefore, that this past June, the Massachusetts State Police received an “award” for being the most secretive public agency in the United States, beating out even the U.S. Department of Defense!
According to the Investigative Reporters and Editors, who gave the award, our state police “habitually go to extraordinary lengths to thwart public records requests, protect law enforcement officers and public officials who violate the law and block efforts to scrutinize how the department performs its duties.” They detail how “requests for basic documents routinely produce refusals, large portions of blacked out documents or demands for tens of thousands of dollars in unjustified fees.” In one horrifying example, The Bay State Examiner was asked for an over $700 “non-refundable research fee” just for the department to determine what the actual fee for a records request would be. Let’s repeat that, there was a fee on the fee for what should have been public information.
As states across the U.S. consider how to best rebuild trust between disenchanted communities and law enforcement, an open, honest, and accountable police department is essential.