With the caveat that it’s been a busier-than-usual five days, this week alone we have received more than a half-terabyte of police records, processed more than two hundred hours of video, sued the City of Cleveland, pursued dozens of story leads (surprisingly many of which panned out), and paid north of five grand in fees.
Before I get to the point, I want to be clear about something: I am not complaining and I am not asking for anything. I love my job and I am proud of what I have built, and although it’s expensive, like most small business owners I don’t spend most of my waking hours on it as a multi-year charity project. In the month of February, Real World Police attracted a daily audience larger than the combined circulation of The Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. That’s all thanks to you, and in a neat symbiosis, it’s your enjoyment of our content that allows us to keep producing it.
“Cool story, bro… but we just want some context for the video.”
This is context for the video. Keep reading.
If you have ever worked a government job, you are familiar with the joys of bureaucracy, but if you are human you also know that people are remarkably good at making mistakes. Rules be damned.
For more than seven months I have been in a tug-of-war with the City of Orlando in relation to one particular request for public records. The City had closed the request multiple times, each time alleging that they had disclosed all responsive records. In response, I was a broken record telling the City that they hadn’t. (My insistence wasn’t out of left field. I had knowledge of specific undisclosed responsive records.)
Things finally came to a head about a week ago when my patience ran out. Unlike the guy in this video, that didn’t take the form of a highly-public shouting match. Instead, the occasion was marked by a letter to the City of Orlando, placing them on notice that if they didn’t get with the program and follow the law, Real World Media was going to sue them five business days later. [That kind of lawsuit is for records, not money — though they would have ended up on the hook for our attorney’s fees. And, to be fair, she is far from cheap.]
“But I thought you sued Cleveland, not Orlando? What happened to the Orlando lawsuit?”
First, good job on paying attention. Second, I’ll answer the question you didn’t actually ask, but I’ve gotta tell you…. you might want to sit down for this one… because you’ll never believe what happened. Right after we sent that letter? Those nonexistent records? Shocker: they turned up.
In case you have trouble with sarcasm, no one, anywhere, was shocked about these records materializing.
Well, almost. All but one of them.
The exception? This video.
This video was among the records disclosed — and I have no idea why. Not only is it not responsive to my request, but it *couldn’t* be responsive, since it was created a half-year after the request was submitted. The best explanation I’ve got is that some records folks were scrambling to get records together, and they made a mistake.
It happens all the time — I’d estimate about once a month — but mistakenly-disclosed records tend to be (a) documents, and (b) boring.
This is neither.
But the only context I can provide is this explanation of why I don’t have any.
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