While the public has a right to know what the agencies that enforce the law in their name are doing, the agencies themselves often don't respect laws supposedly guaranteeing that transparency. Here, P-E reporter Brian Rokos discusses his personal battle as a journalist to wrest information from the clutches of Sheriff Stan Sniff. He links to a pdf of the letter Sniff sent him in which he attempts to justify withholding the information:
Lack of information doesn’t mean we’re not chasing it
Posted on | January 13, 2013 | 0 Comments
The two cases I’ve been getting the most questions on from Press-Enterprise readers are the shooting of the armed man in handcuffs in Moreno Valley, and the traffic crash in Riverside, where two people sitting on a bus stop were killed (photo above).
We haven’t published a lot about the incidents, and readers justifiably wonder why. I’ll say this: it’s not for lack of trying to get information.
We recently sent a public records request to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for information on the shooting of Lamon Haslip, and the only thing they’d tell us is that the deputy has been on the force for eight years. Here is a link to the written response.
Sheriff’s officials cited exemptions to the Public Records Act that were within their rights, such as the deputies’ names. But I believe it was questionable to withhold the 911 call and the radio transmissions from the scene on the grounds that releasing them could compromise the investigation.
I heard the radio transmissions here at my desk on the scanner: “He’s got a gun. … 11-99 … shots fired.” I can’t remember in which order those were spoken, but that’s what I heard over the public airwaves.
In the case of the bus stop crash, we received the name of the driver, Joe D. Williams. But what we haven’t learned is why his vehicle wound up on the grass shoulder on Magnolia Avenue. Lt. Eric Charrette told me that Riverside police are waiting for more results of tests.
I’m working on something myself that might produce an answer. When I know, you’ll know.
But in the meantime, feel free to call or write.