Maricopa County Attorney's Office wants more control in public records requests

- The Maricopa County Attorney's Office wants to decide when reports and videos are released or withheld.

While public records can be a tricky thing for police and prosecutors, but the public has a right to know. The County Attorney says he just wants everyone on the same page, when a request during a criminal case comes up.

"Prosecutors are responsible for law enforcement agencies, even though they don't work for me," said Montgomery, who told police departments earlier in May that public records requests during criminal investigations should go through his office. It may lead to the withholding of video or other evidence.

"I don't get calls from law enforcement when the media asks for copies of the police reports," said Montgomery. "We don't get those. It's understood. What we're talking about with evidentiary issues is that crossover."

Montgomery specifically cited the Philip Brailsford case where the Mesa Police officer shot and killed an unarmed man in a motel hallway. Brailsford was found not guilty of murder, and only redacted body cam footage was released before the trial ended.

"It was the officer's -- defendant's view of what happened, and our initial response to the police department was, 'look, this video is so inflammatory, it could heighten condemnation of the accused'. That's ethical language that applies to prosecutors, I don't think we can provide this, lets ask a judge to review it," said Montgomery.

However, legal counsel Dan Barr with the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona says the move is unprecedented.

"It could be a problem if any of these police departments follow the advice of the County Attorney who, again, is not their attorney," said Barr. "The people who are responsible for carrying out the public records law are the police departments themselves."

Montgomery's letter also told departments if they're sued for public records, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will cover it. That's taxpayer money. However, if a case ever has to move, something that's very unlikely, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will charge the local agencies for fees.

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