DIGGING DEEPER: Public records requests repeatedly denied, here’s why this matters

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 7:00 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Many viewers have debated on social media for months about why WPTA and other media outlets are still pushing for body cam video and records related the Mayor Tom Henry’s OWI arrest.

In the days following the Mayor’s initial news conference, our Digging Deeper team requested body camera footage of the arrest, which the city has denied multiple times.

That response has a common one in recent years when WPTA has summitted a public records request. A request in 2017 for audio recordings related to a shooting was denied. Then in February 2019, a request for dash cam video of a traffic stop was also denied. Again in 2019, a request for body cam and dash cam video related to the sheriff’s altercation with a teenager was denied. Fast forward to this year -- when we requested body camera footage from a police action shooting, it too was rejected.

“The public not only has a right but they also have a need to see what happened in that traffic stop and that arrest,” RTDNA Director Dan Shelley said. “This is not a case of the television station trying to pry or trying to embarrass. This is a situation where the station is attempting to serve its community and its viewers.”

Shelley is the Executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). He says the city should release the video

”Journalists exists to seek and report the truth on behalf of the public,” Shelley said. “In this case, the truth is being withheld from the public on a bogus claim that the video in question is still part of an investigative record.”

As we continue to wait for a clearer look into what happened the night of the mayor’s arrest, Shelley encourages journalists to keep pressing for answers.

“I think you should shine a light on this story and not give up on it until the city releases the video,” Shelley said.

We asked the mayor’s spokesperson if the city will change its policy on public records and body camera video. He responded with “We don’t know.”