Letter of the law

Dear Chief Benny Napoleon:

News Hits truly hates to stir up trouble for you. We know that you — or whoever takes your place when you jump ship in July — have enough on your hands. In fact, News Hits doesn’t like to dwell on your “broken department,” as one report recently referred to it. Nor do we like to mention its chronic problems, i.e. a high rate of fatal police shootings, jail deaths, false arrests, misreported arrest rates, millions of dollars racked up in lawsuit judgements and the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into much of the above. But here’s the thing, chief. Last October, Metro Times’ reporter Ann Mullen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a report regarding Larry Bell, who was arrested after allegedly robbing an eastside grocery store and died while in custody at police headquarters in 1997, according to court records. The report supposedly contains the results of an internal police investigation into Bell’s death. Attorney Dave Robinson, who represented Bell’s family in a civil suit against the department — and which settled last year for $400,000 also requested the report. Needless to say, neither Robinson nor Mullen ever received it.

Mullen has since called the Police Legal Advisor Section about a dozen times to find out why. Well, last month, she learned that she is not the only one waiting for info. About two dozen Freedom of Information Act requests — all related to the Homicide Department — have gone unanswered, according to John Quinn, who heads the Police Legal Advisor Section.

The city won’t specify exactly how long the other FOIA requests have been languishing, but, as Quinn told Mullen last week, some are “older than yours.” Quinn doesn’t know for certain exactly why the department won’t release the records, but assured our reporter he’s trying to find out.

News Hits thought we would save Quinn the trouble and go directly to you, chief. We know you have a lot on your plate, with the Justice Department breathing down your neck and all. But, since we’ve been so tight over the years, maybe you could do this as a farewell favor. If not, we ask that you pass this letter on to your replacement. Hopefully, he or she won’t put us off for another eight months.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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