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LAKELAND, FL (August 23, 2013) -- The City of Lakeland has received its final report from former Judge Monterey Campbell regarding the review of the Lakeland Police Department’s (LPD) public record process.  Judge Campbell was retained by the City to specifically review LPD’s public record requests processes to ensure conformance with Florida Statutes and provide recommendations regarding potential enhancements to current practices.  Campbell concluded that LPD has procedures in place to provide full disclosure to the satisfaction of the requesting party.  (A complete copy of Judge Campbell’s report)  It can also be accessed at www.lakelandgov.net/LPDUpdate.aspx.
 
The report states that in the spirit of full disclosure, if there is a gray area of whether a law enforcement exemption to disclosure applies and it is not harmful to LPD’s duty to protect the public, then LPD should err on the side of releasing the information.  Campbell said, “I am reliably assured that where possible that will be the policy and practice that LPD intends to follow going forward, even if it has been perceived not to have been so in the past.”
 
As part of the study into the public records process at LPD, Campbell met with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), the Tampa Police Department (TPD) and he visited editorial staff from The Ledger.  In the report, Campbell noted that the procedures adopted and in place and the practices followed by all of the law enforcement agencies were very similar.  Campbell suggested that LPD continue to work with the PCSO and TPD in a collaborative effort to assist each other in helpful procedures that further the freedom of access of public records.
 
Chief Womack said, “I am very pleased that Judge Campbell found our process very similar to the PCSO and TPD.  We will continue to review best practices and foster collaborative relationships with our neighboring law enforcement agencies.”   She added, “Judge Campbell met with myself and senior staff at LPD and he particularly liked some of the practices that we have put in place like our Public Records Handbook and the Public Records Training Guide that was designed to be a quick reference to answer common questions that pertain to public records access.”
 
“I am persuaded that LPD is taking every step necessary to provide a willing and cooperative openness to their records in accord with the basic interest, purpose and requirement of our public records laws,” said Campbell.  “Chief Womack assured me of her intent and policy that LPD will freely provide complete openness to their records except where the law established that public safety and third party interests require that certain restrictions are applicable.”
 
The report states that it is important that the public has confidence that LPD will perform its disclosure responsibilities in good faith. Campbell said, “My consideration of the process currently in place with LPD and the practices being followed regarding compliance with public records requests has persuaded me that there exists a good faith effort to meet the rightful expectations of the public.”
 
City Manager Doug Thomas said, “I‘ve had a chance to briefly review the report and it seems as though the practices that the LPD has implemented regarding public records disclosure have resulted in a favorable review by Judge Campbell.  We will continue to consider further enhancements in both the LPD’s and the City of Lakeland’s public record requests processes such as implementing specialized  records tracking software, expanding communication capabilities and improved media relations.”
 
Campbell concluded the report by noting a court observation regarding public records disclosure, “the purpose behind the examination of the various provisions for exemptions, restrictions and confidentiality pertaining to public records disclosure is not to decide whether there are sufficient reasons to release requested information but rather decide whether there are sufficient reasons not to release it.”  Campbell said, “It appears to me that LPD understands and is on course of applying that concept.”
 
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