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JONESBORO, Ark. – Rarely will you see a department admit they hid an incident report to skirt past Freedom of Information Act law, but a statement from JPD on Thursday evening acknowledged all of this and more.
The statement also claims the public was kept in the dark to protect the integrity of the investigation.
It’s all pertaining to the police K-9 shot by a fellow Jonesboro officer on April 30, 2019, but not officially confirmed until May 9, 2019 – following our exclusive reporting.
The statement was also sent after business hours at 5:47 PM, after many newsrooms finish their work for the day.
Here is the full statement from Public Information Specialist Sally Smith:
After an extensive search into the incident regarding the shooting of K9 Rocket, the office of Public Information was alerted to a report that had been created on April 30, 2019 and had been put on Administrative Lock Down due to an internal investigation. Non-administrative personnel do not have access to these reports until the IA has been completed. These reports are then unlocked and are available for release.
It was brought to my attention by the Criminal Investigation Division Lieutenant, Jim Chambers, that report 19-03862 had in fact been filed by Sgt. Porbeck. He was then instructed, citing the exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act, to lock the report in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. I was not made aware of the report’s existence until after the original press release had been posted.
Chief Rick Elliott stated that “this is an active internal affairs investigation to determine if any departmental violations occurred. It is put on departmental lockdown until the investigation has been completed by the Internal Affairs Captain and then turned over to the Chief of Police”.
The report is not available for release due to it being an undisclosed investigation.
The effort to lock the report, as acknowledged in the official statement saying “citing the exemptions…,” was to get by FOIA law and avoid the public learning of the investigation.
Furthermore, the excuse police cited justifying their keeping the public in the dark was to “protect the integrity of the investigation.” However, police must be able to demonstrate how public awareness would harm the investigatory process for a court to rule in favor of this excuse.
Since JPD releases dozens of reports everyday including far more serious crimes that are still being investigated, this makes little sense.
Earlier in an email at 10:02 AM Thursday morning, Smith claimed no incident report existed.
“There is no incident report, bodycam footage or surveillance footage,” Smith incorrectly said.
But there was.
We have reiterated our FOIA request for that report, the internal investigation, and now, all emails and phone records of the public information officials and the police chief.
NEA Report will continue to vigilantly cover this story.