Star, UP need to work together

The Northern Star and the University Police are at an impasse.

Currently, the only way we are able to obtain any information beyond what is provided by the blotter on the UP’s Web site is to request it by mandate of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the FOIA was enacted in 1966 and generally provides that:

Any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information.

All agencies of the U.S. Government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them.

As a newspaper, we are familiar with the FOIA. Obviously though, we would rather obtain our information from the UP officers and officials themselves – invoking the federal government to force governmental bodies to give you information you want and need to perform your job is not nearly as fun as it may sound.

Still, we respect the ways – even if we don’t understand them – in which the UP runs its operation. But we recently ran into a snag with the one small tool we have in obtaining information the public needs to know about.

This tool of course would be the FOIA request; the problem is that there currently seems to be nowhere for us to direct them.

Last Thursday, Kenneth Davidson, vice president and general counsel for University Legal Services, told a Star editor to deliver FOIA requests to the UP FOIA officer, who this semester has been Lt. Curtis Young.

Davidson said his office doesn’t deal with UP-related FOIA requests unless the UP denies a certain request and whomever filed the request wishes to appeal the decision.

Just Tuesday, we received a call in which Sgt. Joseph Przybyla advised us that the UP had talked to University Legal Services and that the FOIA requests were now to go through Davidson and Legal Services, not through the UP.

We are working today to speak with Davidson or someone from Legal Services to clear this up, but all this confusion is indicative of a greater issue.

For the sake of the public, the Northern Star and the University Police Department need to develop a working relationship. We are serving consistent interests in protecting and informing the public for which we work.

We have reached out to Chief Donald Grady two times in an attempt to set up a meeting between UP officials and a few of our top editors. It is in the best interest of the public that we work out details for how, when and from where we receive information on what’s happening on campus that the UP is dealing with.

This is why it is so difficult to imagine why the police chief, whose job includes protecting and serving the public, would not seem to recognize the importance of delivering to people the information they are entitled to as American citizens.

None of this is reflective or even has anything to do with the UP officers who patrol our campus every day. They are good, hard-working people who deserve the utmost respect from students and community members alike.

There has been a consistent and positive working dialogue between the Northern Star and the UP in the past, and there is no reason this cannot be returned to.

The Northern Star wants nothing more than to resolve this issue. Hopefully the UP comes to see it this way as well.