Sure, citizens have access to open records from their local law enforcement agencies. But in today’s information age, we’ve gotten used to the ease with which we can access things as diverse as open-source code, hit pop songs and government records on-line. In reality, our ability to use “open” records may be thwarted at the local level if our area law enforcement agencies have made it impossible to do so.
Reason Magazine’s Hit-and-Run blog has a fascinating look at one concerned citizen’s attempt to access Houston police records on force-entry drug raids and complaints filed against HPD for drug warrants. First of all, the price tag: $100,000 for two requests. Why so expensive? Houston keeps its records in paper copy, and to accurately find complaints for drug warrants, employees would have to take the files for 43,456 complaints lodged in the last seven years and look for drug cases. Amazing!