Thursday, July 18, 2019

The City of Lorain is slow-walking my public records request. Correction: It looks like their reasons were valid.

The City of Lorain is slow-walking my public records request. correction: the reasons for the delay were valid. I'm leaving the full correspondence online anyway.


Mon 6/10/2019 3:43 PM
Re: Request for Use of Force Reports

Chief Rivera,

This is Rob Loftis, from the Police Use of Force Monitoring Team of the northeast Ohio chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Previously you had provided us with your updated use of force policy. Thank you again for that. Another part of our mission is to track ongoing use of force incident reports. Pursuant of that, we are requesting all use of force reports for your department since January 9, 2017. Thank you very much for your time.

J. Robert Loftis


Tue 6/25/2019 8:51 AM
Re: Public Records Request

Mr. Loftis,

We are in receipt of your records request.  I am estimating it will cost $40.00 to complete the request. We would need payment prior to starting the request.


Captain Michael Failing


Sat 6/29/2019 5:50 AM
Re: Public Records Request

Sure. Where do I send the check and whom do I make it out to?



Sent: Friday, July 12, 2019 10:01 AM
Subject: Record Request

Professor Loftis,
Your records request is ready.  The final bill is $48.  Please make the check out to the City of Lorain
You can pick up the request from out records division.

Captain Michael Failing
Lorain Police Department


Sent: Sat 7/13/2019 5:21 PM

Chief Failing, 

Thank you for your reply. Section (B)(6) of the Ohio Public Records Act (149.43) says I can request the format of the records are duplicated in and gives a range of options. One of the options is "the same medium upon which the public office or person responsible for the public record keeps it." I assume you keep your records electronically, so I would like to request .pdf copies of your documents. 

Also, I assume your request for a fee to receive these records is based on Section (B)(1) of the act, which says you are to make copies the records available "at cost." I do not believe that the cost of emailing .pdf files should add anything to the $48 you are already charging me. 

Thank you very much for your time 



Sent: Wed 7/17/2019 2:20 PM

Prof Loftis,

The records you requested are stored in paper copy.  The your request is completed and available in our records department for you to pick up.

Captain Michael Failing
Lorain Police Department


Captain Failing,

Are the records *only* kept as paper copies?

I've received records from your office in .pdf form before, including your current Use of Force Policy and your response to the 2012 Justice Department report on your department. I don't understand why, in 2019, a government office would keep public records in paper form only. 

The Ohio Public Records act (Ohio Revised Code Section 149.43) says I can request documents in electronic form, and you are only supposed to charge me for the cost of reproducing the documents. The ACLU of Ohio has plenty of information online about how I am supposed to request these records and you are required to respond.

So again, I'm asking, if any copies of these records exist in electronic form, please send them to me as .pdf files. 


Update: this is the last email I received from Captain Failing. A person at the ACLU who has been kindly advising me says that this believable, given her experience with police record systems, and since they aren't required to create a new record, this is a legitimate response.

Professor Loftis,

The Lorain Police Department has thousands of reports per year in our database.  There is no way to determine whether a report involved a use of force which is specifically what you requested.  The only way I am able to complete your request is my office maintains a paper file of every use of force.  That is how I compiled your requested data.

The reports are still available in our records department.

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