A Missouri police association filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbia, accusing its police department of violating the state’s public records law by refusing to provide records in a timely manner, then charging an exorbitant amount for the requested records.
Last summer, the Columbia Police Officers’ Association requested two months worth of email correspondence between Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton Deputy Chief of Police Jill Schlude.
But the emails were not produced within three days as required by state law nor did the association receive a detailed explanation providing “reasonable cause” of the delay as outlined in Section 610.023 of the Missouri Sunshine Law.
And when the department finally responded to the records request, it was charging the association $893.59, claiming it will take several high-ranking officers to spend hours compiling the records.
Evidently, they’ve never learned how to use the search function in their email system, which would allow the lowest paid clerk to compile the emails within an hour.
The police association was asking for emails from the months of June and July of this year. And it filed its lawsuit in October, which can be read here.
The Columbia Police Officers’ Association is a private organization that is not part of the Columbia Police Department although the majority of the department’s officers are members.
However, the organization is not a police labor union, even though it is lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Missouri is a right-to-work state and thus does not have collective bargaining. Instead, the police association provides legal services to officers of the Columbia Police Department in the event that an officer is sued or is on trial in need of a defense attorney.
On September 22, the police association submitted a records request for copies of all completed morale questionnaires submitted to the city manager by Columbia Police Department officers.
Earlier that month,