ASU gets called out for redacting “embarrassing” information from its FOIA requests

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Yet another publicized misstep for Arizona State University’s administrators! This article is in direct response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by The Arizona Republic which pertain to the low staffing numbers at ASUPD.

From azcentral.com:

When I was a kid back in a more innocent time, the pre-Beatles 1960s, my friends and I occasionally hung out in the magazine section of the local drugstore and flipped through publications that our parents didn’t want us to see.

But it seemed that every time we got to the good stuff, a black bar blocked our view of an offending part. Magazines are less discreet these days, but those black bars still get plenty of use by your government officials. The federal Freedom of Information Act and the Arizona Public Records Law are among statutes that require governments to make their documents available to the people who pay for their bills.

That doesn’t mean they must let you read everything. In certain situations, they are allowed, and sometimes required by law, to redact information in those documents.

That’s when the little black bars get a workout. There are even computer programs like Adobe Acrobat Professional that make it easy to cover up the sensitive parts with solid inkjet lines. But sometimes we in the media believe the government goes too far in obstructing our view of information that is rightfully yours.

On June 2, we requested a copy of any and all minutes of recent meetings of the advisory board to the chief of the campus police at Arizona State University, citing the Arizona Public Records Law.

Reporters Anne Ryman and Rob O’Dell were working on a story, published last Sunday, about the staffing shortages at the university’s Police Department, which was a topic taken up by the advisory board.

The university complied, but with six pages missing from the minutes of the Oct. 17, 2013, meeting. Ryman, as is her right, appealed and asked for the full document. This time, the university provided all the pages, which included comments from officers about the morale problems in the department.

Among their gripes: “… no unity exists in the department.” “The Department is short-staffed by 50-80 officers.”

Still, not everything was there. Eight lines were redacted under the heading Officer Safety Issues. These were concerns expressed by the university’s police officers. We thought the public had a right to know what they were.

The Public Records Law requires that the government state its reason for blacking out information. ASU information officer Julie New­berg said the section was “redacted according to the Best Interest of the State.”

The law does say that “a public officer or public body may refuse to disclose documents that contain information protected by a common law privilege where release of the documents would be harmful to the best interests of the State.”

Our only course of action at that point would have been to take the university to court to obtain the unredacted document.

Except …

Two sources with legitimate access to the full text of the minutes provided us with copies.

So, what was the university hiding?

They didn’t want you to know that the university’s main campus was sometimes staffed by only two officers on a shift. (The department’s own policy requires four.) They also didn’t want you to know that their officers are sometimes unfamiliar with the areas they police during “party patrols” and that they have difficulty communicating with Tempe police officers because they use different equipment.

Harmful information? I don’t think so; the specific understaffed shifts weren’t revealed. More likely, school officials were embarrassed by the short staffing and lack of training.

And under the law, “the cloak of confidentiality may not be used … to save an officer or public body from inconvenience or embarrassment.”

As I recall it, some of those folks in the magazines way back when would have looked better covered by some kind of cloak as well.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Stuart Warner is a senior content manager and Pulitzer Prize-winning editor. He supervises coverage of the border, immigration, higher education, the environment, Maricopa County government and justice enterprise.

The writer, Stuart Warner, hit the nail on the head.

ASU has used this “cloak of confidentiality” for years to conceal the totalitarian leadership which exists both at ASUPD, and also the university at large. Beyond the censoring of public documents, ASUPD has gone even further to prevent exposure and potential embarrassment. ASUPD’s policy manual seeks to broadly sensor the 1st Amendment rights of its employees outside of work by stating, “when reasonable suspicion exists that the police department is being discredited by an employee through electronic media, the employee may be required to allow access to personal accounts or hardware/equipment for inspection.” (PSM-26-102). Therefore, if an employee (even anonymously) brings forth documentation that the department has discredited itself, he/she is the one who falls under scrutiny, NOT the department or the university.

It is becoming more apparent to the public that the ideology found in Michael Crow’s “New American University” has more in common with communism than it does with the democratic principles found in the United States Constitution.

 

 

 

 

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28 thoughts on “ASU gets called out for redacting “embarrassing” information from its FOIA requests

  1. DL500unit says:

    Is it really that hard to do the right thing? If you are a moral person with a good standard of ethics it isn’t hard. When you are a shifty, lying, fact dodging, sack of shit bureaucrat on a day to day basis it appears to be really hard to do the right thing.

    They need to stop lying and start doing the right thing because smarter people than them are on point doing research, kicking ass, and taking names.

    Fact finding, problem solving, and ethical practices, the Crow administration needs to start doing it with how it conducts business or get deeper into the lie and the liabilities that come with it.

  2. yurhuckleberry says:

    The news is getting to know how shady these people can be. ASUPD command is the first shady tier, but then you have their bosses. Just like the article points out, these public officials are accountable to the public who pay the bills.

    It’s about time they respect that and start acting responsibility with the power they are entrusted with. If they can’t do that it’s time for them to get fired.

  3. Getitright says:

    Every breaking story uncovers more bugs under a rock. But wait, there’s more!

    http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe/2014/09/29/asu-police-plan-return-surplus-m-16-assault-rifles/16448959/

    So much for getting them in the hands of patrol, hopefully an active shooter never brings a rifle. This is what happens when you have Billy Orr running the program. He takes care of his friends and that’s it.

  4. Seguridad perdido says:

    I wonder who is responsible for the decision to go against the law and redact this information like a totalitarian communist thug?

    Acting Chief Thompson? Acting Assistant Chief Michelle Rourke? As truth through transparency shines through all the lies and deceit the culture of corruption that represents our command staff will embarrass Crow even more.

    • ASUPDsmokeNmirrors says:

      I’m guessing it was Rourke under Thompson thinking they wouldn’t get caught concealing this information. It sounds like something she would do thinking nobody was looking and nobody would notice. It’s kind of like how she screwed up Clery reporting in violation of other federal laws. Whoops!

  5. ASUPDsmokeNmirrors says:

    More quality reading material, thank you Stuart Warner, Anne Ryman, and Rob O’Dell for doing your part in holding this corrupt administration accountable. When this is over the police department will be one that can offer services to the community instead of excuses. Your work will save lives.

    This is more proof the university admin can’t be expected to do the right thing unless they are exposed and forced to do so. There is plenty of dirt beyond what you’ve already exposed. The members of a police department are supposed to be ethical, beyond reproach, especially leadership. You will find the opposite with our command.

  6. Quick call Tempe! says:

    The cost of holding the course with our lousy pd leadership just got more expensive. The next chief should be vetted for his ethical record as a police officer on and off duty and throughout his career.

    Our current leadership couldn’t pass that test and thus shouldn’t have any part in the hiring process for our new chief. This business about a closed door vetting process with them makes me sick.

  7. fixmycorruptpd says:

    Wow. Yet another example of our command failing the ethical standards of basic law enforcement and proving they are unworthy of the public’s trust. Nobody here is surprised.

  8. JustTheFacts says:

    For every lie and cover-up comes another embarrassment and discredit for the university, especially for the Arizona State University Police Department and all of us in uniform.

    This by itself is a violation of policy to those causing it. Whoever did the double duty redacting should have to answer for it. They should be especially ashamed because this violated their sworn oath of office as a peace officer.

    What does our current command care about ethics? Most of them have skeletons in the closet ready to embarrass this department and university more if they become public knowledge.

    • ThySummons says:

      I would bet Michele Rourke has something to do with the lack of transparency and non-compliance with the law.

      Did I hear someone say Clery?

    • smokey261 says:

      Command violates policy and procedures when it suits them and makes up ones contrary to law because they understand law as little as they understand people.

  9. smokey261 says:

    The culture of corruption is starting to unravel piece by piece. I have never been in contact with people as immoral, lying, two-faced, devious, and unreasonablely hostile to strangers as some of the people who have made it into the supervisor ranks of this police department.

    It truly is a lord of the flies workplace and the cause can be traced to the lowball standard of ethics of former chief Pickens. His practice of promoting like minded people to insulate himself from the troops was increasingly bad for the business of expanding ASUPD. Of course everything isn’t all bad, there have been quite a few good people here. They don’t stick around very long. See the trend?

    • DL500unit says:

      Sad but true. You can’t grow a department with a toxic environment like that.

    • Quick call Tempe! says:

      The Crow administration and our fearful leadership don’t get trends, they ignore them and continue doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. How many tons of BS did Pickens and Hardena sell them before they were fired? Some of them are good salesmen, but even the best salesmen can’t exist without a tangible product.

  10. ComeOnNow4real says:

    Integrity…ZERO

    Is this what you should expect from a police department? No. You should expect forthright honesty, transparency, and shouldn’t have to investigate the police to get the truth.

    The only reason we have the ability to do our jobs is the public trust and our “leadership” continually does everything to undermine it. Here is a prime example and there will be more until they are replaced with worthy candidates.

  11. Quick call Tempe! says:

    As I read about the redacting scandal our fearful leadership created it pisses me off because their misguided action to conceal the truth takes from every one of us. The truth is the truth and you have no business wearing the uniform if you can’t tell it!

    Crow’s administration should pay more attention to the high standard of ethics and integrity expected of peace officers in this state and realize our command is not up to the task of meeting that standard. Here is just one more example!

    While they fuck around trying to figure out who the blog administrator is or who is posting on here maybe they need to consider how it’s not who feels this way, it’s who doesn’t. They aren’t fooling anyone with their antics.

    • Embudo says:

      The ASU leadership and ASU PD leadership should be focused on fixing the countless problems within the university and ASU PD, respectively, than trying to figure out who the blog administrator is or the blog posters are through AZDPS.

      Go ahead, you self-serving individuals, try to tread on this posters first amendment rights and see what happens. Remember, only fools walk where angels fear to tread.

  12. popo39machine says:

    If you do wrong we will hold you accountable whether you are a member of the public or our current police command staff.

    Neither is capable of policing itself, but I have more faith in our public. Only a small percentage of them are responsible for our calls. If the same were true about our command staff there wouldn’t be a blog titled, “The Integity Report on the ASU Police Department”.

  13. ThySummons says:

    Wow! A Pulitzer-prize winning editor calling out Arizona State University!

    • RUkiddingMe says:

      This is downright shameful behaviour and our command was caught red-handed again! Our command can’t meet the basic standards of ethics required to get into a sworn position of law enforcement, so how can they be in charge of one? Lead by example? That’s been the problem all along. Nobody wants to work under that, they keep leaving.

    • Embudo says:

      Yes, indeed, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor calling out Arizona State University!

  14. Embudo says:

    Regarding the photo: DECEIVERS HALL OF SHAME–WHO IS TOO ASHAMED TO TELL THE TRUTH?

    Shame on these individuals for failing the men and women of the Arizona State University Police Department.

    Shame on these individuals for failing the students, faculty, staff, and visitors of Arizona State University.

    Shame on the ASU administrators for failing to permanently remove the former chief, John Pickens, from Arizona State University, after mismanagement of the police department for over 14-years.

    Shame on the ASU administrators for allowing the remnants of Pickens’ command staff to continue to operate in command, as many of these command staff members were key players in attempting to destroy current and former employees’ lives over the years.

    Shame if the new chief, that is eventually installed by ASU administrators, does not begin the process of dismantling the entire command staff and carefully and methodically rebuilding it anew with individuals that understand the core principles of leadership, ethics, management, and human relations.

    The days of bullying, or interacting with subordinates in an inappropriate and disrespectful manner by any command staff member or supervisor, is over!

    The media is now spotlighting, and accurately reporting, what has gone on, and is going on, within the university and its police department.

    ASU employees’ First Amendment rights will never yield to the tyranny of a few terribly misguided individuals within the ASU PD or the university.

    The ASU administrators in the photo are: Dr. Michael M. Crow, president of ASU; Dr. Morgan R. Olsen, Executive Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of ASU; and Kevin Salcido, Associate Vice President and Chief HR Officer in the Office of Human Resources at ASU.

    The ASU PD command staff in the photo are: acting Chief Michael Thompson, acting Assistant Chief Michele Rourke, Commander William Orr, Commander Lou Scichilone, and Commander Chris Speranza.

  15. […] September 21st, 2014 edition of The Arizona Republic for an example). Even worse, the university attempted to redact information released to The Arizona Republic under the guise of “embarrassment”. The extensive media […]

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