I spent Friday on a wild goose chase, consumed by trips to the courthouse, sheriff’s office, Ferris Department of Public Safety office and finally the Big Rapids DPS office.
A party that broke out yielded arrests. As a local news entity, it’s our job to report the news.
32 MIP’s, four arrests and a person falling through an attic ceiling is news, despite the fact that parties happen all the time here.
My trip to those offices yielded only the confirmation that this all happened, as well as a few numbers.
Sure, I’ve heard plenty of hearsay, which can be useful when asking questions to shoot down rumors or confirm events, but we won’t report the hearsay.
The police reports from this party are public documents. Yet when I finally got to the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety to attempt to obtain the documents pertaining to the arrests (Not even the MIP’s, just the arrests), I was told to file for them under the Freedom of Information Act.
So I filed it and was as specific as possible. Here’s the problem, I was given no reason as to why they weren’t readily available.
Police entities, like all public departments, are supposed to be transparent.
This is the third FOIA the Torch has filed since October of 2013, and the previous two were dragged out. The trend has been a lack of transparency, and it’s reached a point that’s both frustrating and slightly disturbing.
It comes off in a few ways. One: It makes things feel fishy. If public documents aren’t available, what could have happened to make them unavailable?
Two: It comes across as ‘We don’t think you’ll go through the hassle of filing the paperwork, so we’ll make you jump through hoops to complete this task.’
We’re not here to defame those arrested. We’re not here to defame those ticketed for MIP.
To those in charge, be honest with the citizens of your communities. Otherwise you alienate them.