(Correction: The original version of this story stated that the San Diego Sheriff’s Department received an F for legal compliance. The score was based on an auditor’s report that the Sheriff’s Department had not responded to a written request for information. voiceofsandiego.org subsequently learned that the Sheriff’s Department did, indeed, respond to the auditors’ written request by e-mail within the 10 days it is allowed by law. As a result, its grades were substantially increased, to an average grade of C.)
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 | The vast majority of San Diego’s law enforcement agencies are still not meeting the basic requirements of California public records law, according to an audit organized by Californians Aware, an open government advocacy group.
The audit, carried out in San Diego by local journalists, found that local law enforcement agencies had reasonable or good customer-service levels, but that most of them still do not provide citizens with basic information about crimes.
The California Public Records Act requires that such information, including traffic accident reports, crime logs and an agency’s financial records be made available to the public. In theory, any citizen should be able to walk into their local police station and pick up a report on a crime that has been committed in their neighborhood.
But when auditors in San Diego tried to do just that they came up empty-handed time and time again, according to the audit. The auditors visited the major police stations for 12 law enforcement agencies in the county and asked for a police report on a recent burglary or other property crime in the area. The auditors took notes on everything from how they were treated by police staff to how long it took to get their results.
Felicia Kitt, a producer with 10News, was one of the auditors. She tried to get public information from several San Diego Police Department stations but had little success. In an interview outside SDPD’s western division on the day of the audit, Kit said she had been met with courtesy, but confusion, from the officers she petitioned for information.