On Dec. 4, journalists from 31 newspapers and broadcast news organizations visited more than 200 police and sheriff's departments and California Highway Patrol stations in 34 California counties ranging from San Diego to Oakland to Siskiyou. Presenting themselves as ordinary citizens with no special affiliation, they requested records both verbally and in writing.

POLICE AND SHERIFF REQUESTS: At police stations and sheriff's departments, audit participants asked to see statements of economic interest and public information on the occurrences of and arrests for burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assaults for a two-week period in November.

They also submitted a written request asking to inspect 10 sets of documents, including:

-Asset forfeiture fund disbursement records

-Statistical data on officer discipline

-Officer salary schedule

-Individual officer compensation

records

-The latest death-in-custody report filed to the state Department of Justice

-Records copy fee schedule

-The department's media policy

-The police chief's employment

contract

-Officer second-job records

-Worker compensation claims

CHP REQUESTS: At CHP stations, the participants asked to see citations and arrest information for all drunken driving and reckless driving stops for a two-week period in November.


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They also submitted a written request to inspect the following documents:

-Officer salary schedule

-Individual officer compensation

records

-Worker compensation claims

-Officer second-job records

-The latest death-in-custody report filed to the state Department of Justice

GRADING: Police and sheriff departments and CHP stations were graded based on the response, cooperation, service and access allowed by the government employees who work there.

Each department or station began with a score of 100. Points were subtracted each time:

-Someone at the department or station asked the requester questions such as "who are you" or "what do you want these records for" that are not required under the Public Records Act

-Someone at a department or station demanded the requester's name, occupation, intent, employer or identification as a condition of allowing inspection of public records

-The requester was required to fill out a form for records

-Arrest and crime information failed to contain all legally required public

information

-A department took more than 10 days to allow a record to be inspected

-A department referred the requester to another agency to inspect records

-A department refused to allow inspection of each requested item without citing specific legal reasoning

-Crime and arrest reports failed to contain the full level of details required by law, such as suspect's name, age, occupation and information such as when and where the crime or arrest occurred

Departments that failed to accept the requester's written request for public records automatically failed the audit.

THE JOURNALISTS: Journalists from seven MediaNews newspapers in the Bay Area and KGO-TV participated in the audit. They were: Malaika Fraley, Scott Marshall, George Kelly, Quynh Tran, Matt Krupnick and Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times; Cecily Burt of the Oakland Tribune; Roman Gokhman of the Tri-Valley Herald; Martin Ricard of the Daily Review; Angela Woodall of The Argus; Leslie Griffy of the San Jose Mercury News; Kelly Pakula of San Mateo County Times and Steven Fyffe of KGO-TV.