The Tucson Police Department is scrapping its policy of forbidding individuals from taking photos of its records.
City Attorney Mike Rankin said Thursday that most city agencies were already complying with a ruling earlier this week by state Attorney General Tom Horne which said that public records must be available for inspection, without charge, during normal business hours. Horne also said that state law allows those viewing the records to take pictures of them, also without cost.
“However, in one particular instance (records through Tucson Police Department Public Information Office) we were not letting people photograph the record,” Rankin said in a written response to an inquiry by Capitol Media Services. “Instead we told them they could either inspect the record (and not photograph it) and not pay anything, or we would provide a copy and they would pay the copy costs.”
Rankin said that Horne's action makes it clear that policy is illegal.
“In light of the AG opinion, we've given the direction to change that practice and let the person inspecting the record take their own photo, and we won't charge,” he said.
The practice of banning photographs apparently is not limited to Tucson police.
State Ombudsman Dennis Wells said his office had received complaints from around Arizona from people forced to purchase records when they just wanted to use their cell phones to take a picture of them. It was Wells who got Horne to look at the legality of the practice and issue his formal opinion.
In that opinion, Horne said the right of individuals to make copies is not absolute. He said it cannot be disruptive to normal agency business and cannot be done in any way that would alter or damage the record.