JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville's Sheriff Mike Williams responded to criticism on Wednesday, a day after a local attorney blasted the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office over a public record request that cost more than $300,000.
On Tuesday, attorney John Phillips told First Coast News that he submitted the request to JSO back in June on behalf of the family of Blane Land who was hit and killed in May by a police cruiser driven by officer Tim James.
Phillips said he submitted the request to attain the entire employment history of James, who was also in the spotlight after he was arrested for reportedly beating up a 17-year-old who was handcuffed in the back of his patrol car in June.
"We want to know about Tim James," Phillips said. "His disciplinary history, his history operating motor vehicle recklessly or negligently, nothing out of the ordinary."
In response to the reports, however, Sheriff Mike Williams spoke out and said he wanted to “correct the narrative” when it came to Phillips’ request, which totaled to $314,690.74.
“The piece of information that really caught fire yesterday was the fact that one officer’s record cost $300,000 and that’s just not accurate,” Williams said.
Williams said James’ record only cost about $600.
He explained the reason why Phillips’ bill was more than $300,000 was that it also included 29 other elements, such as thousands of hours of video and audio and information regarding every officer who has worked for JSO over the past 10 years, which he estimated to be about 200,000 documents.
Williams said the high bill wasn’t to deter Phillips from obtaining the documents. Williams said by state law, they are required to provide records that are requested.
“We can’t tell them no,” Williams explained. “We have to at least give them an estimate of what the record is going to cost them and they could come and say ‘you know what, I do want the record,’ and we have to provide it. We don’t have a choice in that matter.”
Usually when a huge estimate is provided, however, the person tends to ask to “narrow the scope” and request a more specific item, Williams said.
"We can’t coax someone into asking for less,” Williams said. “We have to give them what they’re asking for.”
In this case, Phillips could ask only for James’ history, Williams said.
“In short, the estimate based on what was asked for is accurate,” Williams said. “But the narrative that the $300,000 is only for one officer is not accurate.”
Williams said better communication between JSO and Phillips could have helped avoid controversy over the breakdown of the request.
Phillips responded to Williams and JSO on Twitter late Wednesday:
We still wait (day 35) for what media has gotten for free and wonder why JSO gives letters addressed to us to the media first. Statement:— John M. Phillips (@JohnPhillips) July 19, 2017
As for public records, it's not all or nothing. If you order a whopper @ mcdonalds, they don't cancel your order or build you a Burger King.— John M. Phillips (@JohnPhillips) July 20, 2017
Read the entire records request below: