City Paper is not for tourists
The other day Carl Kerstetter sent me the above picture of his son David with his medals from his military service which included a tour of duty during the first Gulf War. The picture shows what David was before his mental-illness reared up and took over much of his life. On November 6, he was shot and killed inside his Logan Circle home by D.C. Police Officer Frederick Friday. While the incident is still under investigation, my cover story on the subject raises many questions left unanswered.
I am using this new picture of David as an excuse to complain about the latest stonewalling on the part of the D.C. Police Department’s press office.
A month after the shooting, I submitted a FOIA to the D.C. Police Department’s spokesperson Traci Hughes. The FOIA was very simple. I asked for e-mails sent from a few police officials to the officials at the Department of Mental Health. My request gave a specific time frame and a specific subject matter to search. But after I sent my FOIA, I heard nothing back from police brass.
I waited. And then I waited some more.
After a month, I started regularly calling and e-mail Hughes about my FOIA. She replied that I needed my FOIA number. I told her that I never received a letter from her with a FOIA number. How should I know what my “FOIA number” is?
To refresh her memory, I sent her a copy of my original FOIA with the date attached. I then waited some more. But I kept calling her office and e-mailing her.
I finally reached Hughes on the phone. She told me that she was writing my rejection letter while we were on the phone. Awesome! She said that my FOIA was being denied because it was “overly broad.”
I asked Hughes: How can I fix the FOIA since it asks for specific information from specific officials for a specific time period. I mentioned that when a similar issue came up with the Department of Mental Health, its FOIA officer worked with me on a compromise.
Hughes said she wasn’t going to help.
Even better: I am still waiting for Hughes’ rejection letter. Now, Hughes is on maternity leave.
I’m gonna say it: She shouldn’t come back to her post as police spokesperson. The city and the press deserve better from its public officials.
It has been four months since I sent my original FOIA request. And two months since I sent a follow-up FOIA on a related matter. I do not think D.C. Police Department could be more indifferent to FOIA regs.