BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office media policy is completely incompatible with modern media and quite possibly a violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law. It often makes PBSO look like a secretive operation — unnecessarily hiding arrest and incident information — drawing comparisons to the police handling of the media in Ferguson, MO.
We are calling on Sherif Ric Bradshaw — who we appreciate may be unaware of the policies being carried out by his underlings — to make expeditious and dramatic improvements.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office refuses to release arrest reports, telling members of the media to contact and pay the court clerk’s office — an office in the midst of a massive electronic records upgrade. The clerk’s office, responsible for the management of every civil and criminal case in Palm Beach County, has more important things to do than field media requests for police information — information that should be coming from the police.
PBSO also refers media to a private company’s website: “CrimeMapping.com” to learn about incidents in specific areas of the county. The outsourcing of police records for public consumption is a violation of Florida Statute 119.01.C:
(c) An agency may not enter into a contract for the creation or maintenance of a public records database if that contract impairs the ability of the public to inspect or copy the public records of the agency, including public records that are online or stored in an electronic recordkeeping system used by the agency.
PBSO refuses to issue a daily or weekly blotter of incidents, police calls and dispositions. BocaNewsNow.com’s repeated requests to inspect original records — in compliance with Statute 119 — have repeatedly been denied.
Police departments throughout South Florida, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach release information upon request concerning arrests, incidents and police calls in their jurisdiction. Boca Raton issues an almost daily “blotter” listing everything officers did while on duty. Boynton actively lists incidents on Facebook. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office issues instant updates for major events.
These departments are the model of modern media relations.
But the actions of Boca, Boynton, Delray and BSO make PBSO look like a secret society.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office issues the occasional press release on a missing person, a bad accident or a credit card theft at Target. If a deputy is involved in a shooting, PBSO frequently issues a press release with the victim’s criminal history while he or she is in surgery. But for the day-to-day stories behind the arrests, the police calls and the acts of heroism by deputies, PBSO routinely says nothing — directing media to the clerk’s office or the CrimeMapping.com website.
There are phenomenal, professional deputies patrolling Palm Beach County every day. They keep us all safe. The public never hears about what they did or how they did it because of PBSO’s media policies.
We are calling on Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to open the books, to abide by Statute 119, and to permit the media — and the public — to inspect all incident reports on demand at any substation countywide.
We hope that PBSO’s current policies are a misunderstanding in the command and control structure of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office — a misunderstanding that will immediately be clarified and rectified as policies are modernized.