The importance of keeping records

Ed Desk Blog

By: Cody Boteler, Editor in Chief

In late February, we discovered that Towson University’s police crime log hadn’t been properly updated since the New Year. I learned this week that it was because of a technical glitch, not because of any nefarious plot to cover up recent crimes.

Not that I ever thought, of course, that there was some degree of nefarious plotting. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last four years is that most things aren’t a conspiracy. We’re all just people trying to do our jobs and live nice lives.

But the little adventure in reporting also reminded me how important it is that we have robust public records laws in American and in this state. And it reminded me that, just like any other law, requirements for public records are only meaningful if they’re enforced.

Yeah, it was a technical glitch that kept TUPD from properly uploading the police crime log. But, until the glitch was discovered, there wasn’t a protocol to have someone from TUPD check and make sure the changes were actually uploading.

I was relieved to hear that the protocol has changed and that now, yeah, there is a step that requires someone to check and make sure the crime log is updating. But…why wasn’t there one already?

There’s a growing distrust of institutions — and that includes institutional media entities.

It’s hard for me to trust the current White House (for its lack of press conferences, lack of response to press inquiries and a whole host of other issues) and, by extension, other seats of government power around the country. Gov. Larry Hogan’s office deleted negative comments from his Facebook page, the White House has gone over a week without a press briefing, and everyone has started crying “fake news” whenever there’s a story they don’t like.

One of the best ways to ensure that we can speak truth to power and keep the public informed is to make sure the rules and statutes that give us access to public information – like the Clery Act or the Freedom of Information Act – are upheld, fought for and protected.

 

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