Viewpoint: Bulletin did not tell full story on police data
I am writing in response to the Woodbury Bulletin's April 26 article about Woodbury Public Safety's handling of public documents. I believe there is more to the story that should be shared.
I was disappointed that the Bulletin article did not reflect the full response from the Minnesota Department of Administration and neglected to explain the informal agreement we had in place with the newspaper to help them meet their deadlines.
Each week we email cable television and local newspapers (including the Woodbury Bulletin) up to 60 pages of incident report summaries. Reporters can quickly review what is going on in our city and request complete copies of a number of incident reports they deem newsworthy. We agreed to make these requests a priority.
Before we can release an incident report, private data must be redacted. We have no automated system for redaction. It is a manual, time-consuming process that conflicts with the media's need to get information quickly. For the sake of expediency, we have occasionally redacted some report details later determined to be public data. Our judgement was if a mistake was to be made, it would be in favor of a person's privacy. The Bulletin was urged to contact us if they believed we redacted any information in error.
While this process has worked well for the other newspapers, the Bulletin requested even more reports be reviewable and on a more frequent basis. We notified the Bulletin that we were unable to accommodate their request and they responded by requesting nearly 600 additional police reports (later rescinded) and a state review of our handling of data. We simply do not have the capacity to meet the volume of the Bulletin's requests, manually redact each report without error, and meet their deadlines on a weekly basis. Our support service staff must also meet the needs of our community, prosecutors, defense attorneys, courts, police officers and the many other media outlets we serve.
Woodbury Public Safety takes pride in providing excellent service to our community, including our news media partners. Properly managing public records is a priority and our goal is to share timely information, meet comprehensive state requirements and protect the privacy of individuals.
Woodbury Public Safety welcomes the Minnesota Department of Administration's recommendations. We are always striving to improve. We continue to value the positive relationships we have with our media partners and are hopeful we can build a stronger relationship with the Woodbury Bulletin.