The city of Little Rock decided after some confusion yesterday to comply with an order that it must provide all photos of Little Rock police officers, except for undercover officers, including their names in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
You can catch up on the back and forth here. Frequent police critic Russ Racop filed the FOI suit. The city lost. When it first produced photographs of police, it didn’t include identifying names. Racop sought a contempt order. The judge ordered the city to produce the photos, with names, by today. At one point, City Attorney Tom Carpenter, who is out of town, had indicated by e-mail that he wanted to resist producing the photos in that form, but another lawyer in the office indicated otherwise later.
According to a letter today from Deputy City Attorney Rick Hogan, the files were made available at police headquarters this afternoon.
Editorial comment: Of course the files should have been open in the form Racop sought. But Racop’s obsessive pursuit of city records, even when legally justified, won’t necessarily prove to be a good thing. The Arkansas Municipal League is already on the warpath to limit the FOI law in 2019 because of what officials see as burdensome FOI requests. Police generally enjoy public support and I found telling yesterday some words of sympathy for LRPD from Michael Laux, a lawyer who has sued the department for police actions. He termed Racop’s action harassment. As I mentioned when Racop first began making news with his blog reports on what he views as public corruption, he has a public record of his own in domestic relations court (my wife’s in the interest of full disclosure) that his critics are already mining.
There’s some harmonic convergence in Racop’s winning support in this latest lawsuit from Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. They are both entitled to the full measure of protection of both the First Amendment and state sunshine laws, however objectionable some might find it. But that doesn’t mean, as a tactical matter, it’s always wise to use these protections to the maximum extent possible. Discretion IS sometimes the better part of valor. Voters will have a chance to weigh in. Racop is running against incumbent City Director Doris Wright in November.
PS: One last update. Racop said the discs originally provided to fulfill the court order hadn’t had a final completion command done, an apparent oversight, so he accepted another file from the police that appeared to have photos and names.