JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – WJTV 12 News has filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission against the Jackson Police Department (JPD). At issue is our public records request for JPD’s calls for service log.
The data documents 911 emergency calls and any other requests for service by Jackson police officers. However, Jackson police say they don’t have those records.
When you or your family have an emergency that requires police attention, how long will it take for an officer to respond? That’s a question many Jacksonians have to ask themselves, every day. The city’s Public Service Communications Center handles tens of thousands of 911 emergency calls and non-emergency calls each year, including calls for service by the police and fire departments.
In most jurisdictions, when a 911 call comes in for police assistance, the call center notes the time the call was received: when an officer is dispatched to respond to the call and when that officer arrives at the scene.
One example comes from New Orleans, where such data is compiled and updated each weekday, and available for public review. The data includes the location where police are called to respond and the type of crime in question: assault, robbery, vandalism, etc. Police commanders and city leaders can analyze this data and discover trendlines for the officers’ response times.
Any citizen has right under state law to obtain and review this information. It includes no private information and nothing about criminal investigations in progress.
On February 9, 12 News sent the City of Jackson a public records request for a copy of the police department’s calls-for-service logs from 2019 and 2020. We detailed exactly what data we’re looking for, including case numbers, call and response times, and addresses.
State law requires public agencies to respond to such requests within seven working days, either producing the records or denying the request.
We got the city’s response to our request two days later: “The city has reviewed its files and has determined there are no responsive documents to your request.”
12 News revisited the matter, three months later. This time we simplified our language asking for call and response times, block addresses, and case numbers.
Once again, the city said, “no responsive documents,” found.
Our investigators spoke directly with deputy chief Tyrone Buckley, who oversees JPD’s administrative division. He put us in touch with Chasitye Brinson, who manages the records department.
On June 11, Brinson told us by phone that their computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system does not normally include officer arrival times on scene, so they denied our entire request.
Brinson also noted that JPD had recently switched to a new software system for logging and responding to 911 calls. She told us the 2019 and 2020 logs were likely archived in their old system, and she would have to consult their information systems experts to figure out how to provide the records to us.
We waited almost four weeks and received no further response.
When we inquired with the deputy chief, we received this response from Ms. Brinson: “I stated we could not produce the requested documents in the format of which you requested and also that it could only be printed through my department. My recommendation was to speak with the IS department to see if another format was possible.”
It took the city five months to come up with that response, well past the seven-working day limit provided for in state law.
12 News took the complaint to the state’s Ethics Commission. They oversee compliance with the public records law. The Ethics Commission has ruled that the department has violated the public records law on at least seven occasions since 2014.
The Ethics Commission has confirmed receipt of our request, but we don’t know when they’ll having a ruling on the matter. Meanwhile, our viewers in Jackson have no data to evaluate how effective police officers are in responding to your emergency calls.
On Thursday at 10:00 p.m., we’ll talk with a woman who had a similar complaint about JPD’s handling of public records and why they’re so important to the public.