by Ken Jakes
It appears that police departments across our state are violators of the law. The very ones that are charged with upholding the law are violating it at the expense of the citizens. Let me give just three examples.
1. Davidson County was charging $9.00 for a six page accident report at Central Records. It is a violation of law for them to charge more than .15 cents per page. I addressed this with the Director of Metro Legal and the State of Tennessee Comptrollers office which resulted in Davidson County having to lower the fee for the accident reports to .90 cents, a savings to the citizens of $ 8.10 per report. Metro was charging $10.00 for a copy of a DVD which was in violation of law. I filed another complaint, which resulted in Metro reducing the price of a DVD to $1.00, saving the citizens $9.00 per DVD.
2. I was informed later that the City of Hendersonville was charging $5.00 for a six page accident report. Again I filed a complaint with the Comptroller, which resulted in the City of Hendersonville having to lower their fee of obtaining an accident report to .90 cents, saving the citizens $4.10 per report. Again, I find that they are charging a fee of $10.00 for the public to obtain a copy of a DVD. Another complaint filed resulted in the City of Hendersonville lowering the fee for obtaining a copy of a DVD to $1.00, saving the citizens $9.00 per DVD.
3. This week my secretary informed me her mother and father were involved in a wreck in Goodletsville, Tn. Her dad went to the Goodletsville Police Department to obtain an accident report. He was charged $6.00 for the three page report. I informed my secretary that was a violation of the law and I would address that issue on behalf of her father.
I went to the Goodletsville Police Department and spoke with Chief G. Goodwin. I explained to him that it was a violation of law to charge $6.00 for a three page accident report. He responded to me, and let me quote his words, "we are aware it is in violation of law." I was shocked to hear these words spoken by the Police Chief.
A lady, whom I did not know, stepped up to the window and obtained an accident report. I asked Chief Goodwin if he was fully aware that it was a violation of law to charge $6.00 for an accident report, then was he going to charge this lady $ 6.00 for the report? He answered "YES." While I was discussing this with the Chief of Police, the lady paid by credit card and left. Wanting to have the contact information of the lady, I purchased a copy of the same accident report.
Thinking the person picking up the report might not have been the person listed in the police report, I decided to obtain a copy of the receipt just given to the lady. Both women at the front desk of the City of Goodletsville Police Department informed me that I could not obtain a copy of the receipt because it was paid by credit card. They also informed me I would have to fill out a public record request form (like I have never filled one of those out before). I filled out the form and informed both ladies that they are totally wrong about me not being permitted to obtain a copy of a receipt paid by credit card. I requested that they redact the receipt and provide all the information that was public. After talking with the city manager, the ladies were told to provide me with the receipt I had requested.
Needless to say, another complaint filed with the Comptrollers Office resulted in a reimbursement for my secretary's dad, the lady who purchased a report, and myself. Now a three page report is a total charge of 45 cents, saving the citizen $5.55 per report.
It is my opinion that every police department across Tennessee is violating the law by over charging the public for obtaining copies of reports. This is a revenue stream for the government stolen from the pockets of the citizens. There does not need to be a law created to stop this theft. The law is already created. We just need some elected official to step up to the plate and say enough is enough. The State should inform all departments and agencies of the law and place very strict penalties on those who violate the law. The police and other government agencies are not above the law. It should not be left to the citizenry of Tennessee to hold the police accountable to operate within the law.
The battle of taking our Country back never ends and you don't have to look far from home to find corruption within.
Ken Jakes is a frequent critic of Metro Government and a citizen activist discovering and exposing government corruption and waste. He is a former and probably future candidate for public office.