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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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January 29, 2008 3:11 PM

Open records assault

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In case you missed it, here is a link to the Democracy Paper edit that ran Monday. The edit dealt with another assault on open records. The edit follows a Times story about the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, a public agency, threatening to pull Monroe's liability insurance because city officials wanted to make it easier for the citizens to obtain public records.

Seems the public's right to know what their elected officials are doing comes under attack every legislative session. Check out this bill from Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum. A Times story on the bill can be found here. The legislation would keep private personal information about a police officer and their family. Phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and property tax records would all fall under the bill.

The WCIA and Hinkle are way out of line. An insurance group has no business trying to undermind the state's public records law. And Hinkle's bill raises all sorts of questions, and potential situations for abuse. If the bill became law, officers and their supervisors would be notified that a citizen had requested information about the officer. The supervisor and officer would be given the name and city of the person requesting the information.

Let's play along with Hinkle's is "what if" game. What if an policeman is notified that a reporter has requested identifying information like date of birth. Common practice, and essential to accurate reporting. What if that policeman does not like that the reporter, or citizen, has requested that information. You get the idea. What if is a bad way to legislate. And it is not as if Washington's police officers have not been hit by a rash of personal information abuse.

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