Over the past 8 months, the Worcester Police Department has battled with the Telegram over the release of public records relating to citizen complaints against Worcester Officer Mark Rojas. While police officials have repeatedly said they intend to release the records, the Telegram and City Councilor Rick Rushton have accused them of delaying their response.
The Worcester Police Department has just released a statement that the department intends to release the records this week, though samples of the records to be released include heavy redactions—including a full page blacked out in one case. In the statement, the department also criticizes the Telegram for “polarizing the debate.”
(The department’s response and samples of the records after the jump.)
The release reiterates officials’ claims from the last few weeks that the complicated records request, by nature, took several months due to privacy concerns, legal rights, and an unrelated ongoing investigation.
“Under normal circumstances it is not unusual for a request of this magnitude to take months to comply with, and the past several months have not been routine,” the statement reads, discussing the ongoing investigation of court overtime abuse. “While the…Attorney General is reviewing the criminal liability…[WPD] had to prepare completed case files with all relevant documents. Many of these tasks are still ongoing and limit the opportunity to complete the T&G public records request.”
“All of the issue and challenges outlined…were communicated to the original reporter of the public records request as well as other T&G reporters. Unfortunately, the T&G in this case was not the most accurate medium for dissemination of an honest and justified explanation. The T&G interest was to polarize the debate as they minimized the complexity and challenges faced by the police department and the reality of the so-called 10 day deadline for producing a public record. The reporting in this case clearly misrepresented the efforts of the WPD to comply with the public records request.”
The release concludes, “…the police department embraces transparency, but it must be balanced against the protection of citizen and police officers rights.”
Throughout the three page sample released, that balance takes different forms. On a description of an alleged incident involving Rojas, the names of all witnesses and a victim are redacted, as is the date. On a separate form, the entire sheet, save for City of Worcester letterhead, is blacked out, leaving half of three words visible in separate places (“-alf, -ing, the”).
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