Misha Ketchell writes:

On Monday last week NSW chief police commissioner Ken Moroney had a bad day at the office. He woke up to a Daily Telegraph
splash – “Secret Police File of Shame” – detailing tawdry
shenanigans and s-x scandals at the police training college. Then he
had to face up to Alan Jones, who had a field day with s-x angles before
claiming there was a “culture of cover-up” in the force.

Moroney could only eat humble pie and admit that after 14 months the Tele’s
FOI request had “taken too long to resolve.” And he also go a
whacking from Tele editor Dave Penberthy over the NSW police freedom
of information procedures in his
morning editorial:

… the NSW police system must also be transparent in its
processes. Yet we have a situation where its Freedom of Information
Unit is attempting to lock up these vitally important documents;
using every trick in the book to prevent them being released.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, that it took 14 months of pushing
by this newspaper, and the intervention of the Ombudsman, for this
information to be made public.

Describing the documents as “vitally important” is probably a
bit rich – people who find these sort of yarns entertaining already
have seven instalments of Police Academy to keep them going. And for most
people, journalists’ bleating about FOI laws is a major turn off. But
this time Penbo was onto something.

Crikey has obtained a
previously unreleased Ombudsman’s report slamming the NSW police for
breaking the law by failing to respond to FOI requests in time and
refusing to allocate adequate staff to the FOI unit.

The damning report revealed that NSW police received a whopping 8265
FOI requests in 2004-2005 but only 74% per cent were processed within
the legal time frame. It also fingers Moroney for signing off on a decision to refuse to
allocate extra staff to the FOI office and concludes that:

…having identified an acknowledged a serious problem, NSW
police then failed to take long term, significant action to address the
underlying causes to enable compliance with statutory requirements.

…I find the conduct of NSW Police to be unreasonable within the terms
of s26 of the Ombudsman Act in failing to take adequate action to
address delayed in dealing with applications received under the Freedom
of Information Act.

Luckily for Moroney, the report hadn’t been made public
when he was savaged by Jones and Penberthy. Crikey obtained it after it
was released… under FOI laws.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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