Let The Public Have Records
|Alyssa Ginter and her mountain of work|
What do requests for police reports, case dispositions and court transcripts have in common with requests for surveillance videos, case statistics and correspondence? They are all examples of the thousands of public records requests received at the MCAO annually. The Office typically receives more than 100 requests a month for everything from video and audio tapes to minute entries, to copies of every single item in a specific case file. Not only do these requests come in from people all over Maricopa County and Arizona, media outlets and citizens from around the world make requests for all kinds of records. In addition, all the litigation holds, notices of claim, subpoenas and summons pass through the Custodian of Records at the MCAO. With such a large volume, each request must be logged and tracked through the process. Public Records staff determines if a record exists and conducts research on where to find the material, the size and the time needed to copy, scan, redact and review everything. So, despite all our progress towards a paperless office, processing a public records request at the MCAO relies heavily on paper – and lots of it!
In some instances, a case disposition is easy to identify and the request can usually be opened and closed within the same week. The majority of requests often involve multiple boxes of material and hundreds of pages of reports and case materials. The largest public records request to date that the team has processed involved more than 100 case file boxes, all filled to the brim with paper and reports and photos related to one matter. Sometimes members of the public records team are surprised at what they find in old case file boxes requested from storage …. The team has found a half-eaten hamburger in one box, shell casings and even an expensive watch.
The Public Records team includes six people – all of whom help with these requests as well as work on other projects and assignments in the Office. As a result, everyone on the team does a little bit of everything, copying, scanning, redacting, sorting and mailing. Earlier this year the PRR team was the recipient of the MCAO’s Team Effort Award given to groups in and out of the Office who work to empower victims, during Victims’ Rights Week.
Rebecca Baker, one of the attorneys working on the Public Records Team agrees, “The volume of work that this team accomplishes every day is amazing. With so many different types of requests coming in the door every day – it’s hard to keep track sometimes of who wants what when. The team has established an organized process that helps us keep the requests moving – and also ensures privacy for victims.”
For more information on the Maricopa County public records process, visit our public records packet available at MaricopaCountyAttorney.org.