Stanton, Williams Reject County Attorney Letter On Public Records

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 - 5:16pm
Updated: Monday, May 28, 2018 - 10:38am
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Phoenix City Councilwoman Thelda Williams

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Vice Mayor Thelda Williams said the city police department will not change its policies on public records. It’s a response to a letter from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Earlier this month, Montgomery sent a letter that said when a police department in the County receives a public records request for documents or videos, departments should consult with his office, and together the two agencies would decide how to answer.

One reason, Montgomery said, was that his office had to deal with the legal fallout if a police department released (or withheld) a document in a way that did not correspond with the state public records laws or attorney ethics rules.

“Given [the court’s] penchant for looking at the state as a monolithic entity, it’s prosecutors who wind up having to answer why something was released,” he said in a interview on Monday.

In the letter, Montgomery warned if the police didn’t comply with the stated process and a trial’s venue was changed due to a record being released, his office would seek to recoup costs from that department.

But Stanton, who is leaving his job as mayor on May 29th, and Williams, his temporary replacement, rejected the policy stated in the letter.

Here’s their joint statement:

"Transparency is absolutely necessary for the Phoenix Police Department to build and maintain stronger trust relationships between our city, its officers and the people they serve.  We are disappointed that the County Attorney has chosen to pursue a path that undermines transparency and would likely further strain police-community relations."

During her time as Phoenix’s top law enforcement officer, Chief Jeri Williams has developed and implemented a thoughtful, common-sense process for how the Police Department releases critical incident records, and we believe that process should remain in place.  The decision of when and how to release records will be made by Phoenix officials, not those at Maricopa County."

The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that the Phoenix Police Department said it will move forward with a ramped-up protocol for releasing video of high-profile incidents involving officers.

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