Wisdom

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Getting Terre Haute Police Department incident reports:

Some of you are aware that we have encountered problems in the past getting police incident reports from the Terre Haute Police Department.

We appear to have reached an understanding of how we may obtain the public records we are entitled to. Here’s the procedure:

(1) Go down to THPD, at 12th & Wabash, and speak to the officer at the front desk. Tell him or her that you would like to see the police blotter. This only works if the case you want to see has happened in the previous few days.

(2) If the case you need the report for is older than a few days, call Chief of Operations Mark Eldred at 244-2200, ext. 220.  He will make a call to the records room to provide a copy of the incident report for you to pick up.

Now, some helpful tips:

  • Be polite. Say, “I’m with the Indiana Statesman newspaper and I need to see the blotter, please.”  Or, “Hello Chief Eldred, I’m a reporter with the Indiana Statesman and I need a copy of the incident report regarding [person’s name] on [date of incident].” And, “Thank you for your help.”
  • Be clear. Don’t call the department without having done as much research as possible. At minimum, know the name of the person arrested, or the type of incident, and the date of the incident. That helps them find the information you need.
  • Don’t apologize or feel that you need to defend your request.  These are PUBLIC records. State law protects every citizen’s right to access them. You are not “bothering” the department with your request.
  • Don’t be bullied. No one at the department is allowed to ask for identification, press credentials or the reason why you want the records. By law, you can walk in in a clown suit or with horns growing out of your head and they still  have to provide you with public records.
  • Be firm. Respectfully tell anyone who asks for identification or other information that you are not obligated to give that information. Tell them you are within your rights to see the information provided by state law. If you run into resistance, ask to speak to Chief Eldred. And, of course, call an adviser.

It is important that  you be familiar with Indiana’s public records law. You must know your rights before you can defend them. For Indiana’s statute on public records, please see the state’s web site. The relevant passage is here:

IC 5-14-3-5
Information relating to arrest or summons; jailed persons; agency records
Sec. 5. (a) If a person is arrested or summoned for an offense, the following information
shall be made available for inspection and copying [emphasis added]:
(1) Information that identifies the person including the person’s name, age, and address.
(2) Information concerning any charges on which the arrest or summons is based.
(3) Information relating to the circumstances of the arrest or the issuance of the summons, such as the:
(A) time and location of the arrest or the issuance of the summons;
(B) investigating or arresting officer (other than an undercover officer or agent); and
(C) investigating or arresting law enforcement agency.

(b) If a person is received in a jail or lock-up, the following information shall be made available for inspection and copying:
(1) Information that identifies the person including the person’s name, age, and address.
(2) Information concerning the reason for the person being placed in the jail or lock-up, including the name of the person on whose order the person is being held.
(3) The time and date that the person was received and the time and date of the person’s discharge or transfer.
(4) The amount of the person’s bail or bond, if it has been fixed.
(c) An agency shall maintain a daily log or record that lists suspected crimes, accidents, or complaints, and the following information shall be made available for inspection and copying:
(1) The time, substance, and location of all complaints or requests for assistance received by the agency.
(2) The time and nature of the agency’s response to all complaints or requests for assistance.
(3) If the incident involves an alleged crime or infraction:
(A) the time, date, and location of occurrence;
(B) the name and age of any victim, unless the victim is a victim of a crime under IC 35-42-4;
(C) the factual circumstances surrounding the incident; and
(D) a general description of any injuries, property, or weapons involved.
The information required in this subsection shall be made available for inspection and copying in compliance with this chapter. The record containing the information must be created not later than twenty-four (24) hours after the suspected crime, accident, or complaint has been reported to the agency.

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