The Florida Times-Union by Ben Conarck
July 18, 2017
The family of a pedestrian hit and killed by a Jacksonville police officer in May was asked to pay more than $300,000 for public records dealing with the officer’s work history — and that was just the cost of the search.
Florida’s leading public records expert called the estimate “outrageous” and a potential violation of state public records laws.
Officer Tim James, who was investigated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office 11 times before he was arrested in June on charges of beating a handcuffed teenager, hit and killed Blane Land with his police cruiser about a month before the incident that led to his arrest. Attorney John M. Phillips, who is representing the Land family, asked for records relating to James’ driving history and civil rights complaints.
The request was routine, but the outspoken attorney was shocked by cost — which would have covered the first of three potential estimates.
Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said the estimate likely constitutes a violation of public records law, because it denies Phillips his constitutional right to access public records.
“Frankly, it smacks of obfuscation,” Petersen said. “It’s absurd.”
Phillips on Tuesday said the Sheriff’s Office has a history of setting up roadblocks when responding to attorneys pursuing litigation against an employee, but will turn over records at a much quicker pace when they concern an inmate or an arrested civilian.
Petersen agreed that is usually how it goes throughout the state of Florida. “When they want you to have it, you get it,” she said. “When they don’t want you to have it, you have to go through hell and back to get it.” [READ MORE]