Wichita Police Respond To Request For Shooting Incident Details With A Handful Of Fully-Redacted Pages
from the literally-nothing-to-see-here,-move-along dept
So much for the power of open records requests. Sure, you get some scratch paper out of the deal, but otherwise, there’s nothing “open” about this shooting report delivered in response to the Wichita Eagle’s request. (h/t to Techdirt reader Brig C. McCoy, via KansasExposed.org)
The city of Wichita has released a heavily redacted public incident report from the Jan. 3 police shooting of John Quintero.
About four and a half pages of the five-page report are redacted. The reports typically detail what happened in an incident and include information from witnesses and officers involved.
Pretty much the entirety of the released report [pdf link] looks like this:
(If you can’t see the embed, don’t sweat it. Literally nothing to see but black ink, although you are missing the unintentionally ironic title of “Public Incident Report.”)
The only information actually revealed is a short description of the incident.
Report Date: 01/032015 I8158 Start Date: 01/03/2015 18:58
Summary: VI WAS REPORTED TO BE ARMED WITH A KNIFE AND CONFRONTED OFFICERS. VI WAS SHOT BY OFFICERS AND TRANSPORTED CODE BLUE VIA MEDIC 24 TO WESLEY MEDICAL CENTER. VI LATER PRONOUNCED CODE BLK @ 0055 HRS. NOTIFICATIONS MADE. LAB 23 AND 34 ON SCENE. SEE
CONNECTING CASE 15C000630. SGT HIGHTOWER AND LT OJILE ON SCENE. INCIDENT WITNESSED BY W1, W2 AND W3. PHN RPT
Everything else, including officers’ statements and those from the three witnesses have been redacted. What was released was common knowledge, as the Wichita Eagle had been covering the case since the night it happened. Officers responded to a call reporting a “disturbance involving a knife.” 23-year-old John Quintero was shot by officers after he became “belligerent” and “reached for his waistband.” No weapon was found on Quintero.
Now, there may be a good reason this was all redacted. Or if not a good reason, than at least the usual reason police departments withhold information: the case is still under investigation. But the Wichita PD hasn’t offered any comment on its decision to redact nearly everything in this report. One wonders why it even bothered releasing it at all. It’s one thing to be transparent. It’s quite another to make meaningless gestures like this in the letter of open records laws, while avoiding the spirit of them entirely.
And it may not actually still be under investigation. The only other interesting item left unredacted follows the truncated incident report. Under the heading “Add’l info” it says the following:
1 – 0130 JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE – – Original Report
What it looks like (and, of course, one can only infer so much from this extremely limited “data set”) is that the officer involved has either been cleared or is well on her way to being cleared at this point — 10 days after the shooting occurred.
The Wichita Police have offered no statement one way or the other on its justifiable homicide report, but its silence, along with its secrecy, indicates it would rather have this blow over quickly than deal with the consequences of a questionable shooting. Of course, it’s far from the only law enforcement agency to “mistake” multiple pages of opaque black ink for “transparency.” If you’re doing nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, right?