1 Episode results for "Shelly Simon"

What makes a journalist run for elected office?

Transition Virginia

49:05 min | 2 months ago

What makes a journalist run for elected office?

"We just wanted to get into a career field where we were more respected than the media so we picked politics on this episode of transition. Virginia we are truth tellers. We work in the business of accountability journalists. Turn lawmakers you're both great at sniffing out when something somebody says doesn't quite sound right joined by former tv anchor. Delegate chris i i made that hard pivot and didn't look back and former newspaper reporter delegate danika rome for you fees are used as a deterrent. And that's the problem or shining a light on police documents and battling the fetish for secret government. Being able to look at what officers really wrote in their incident reports. I want us to strengthen foia treat like the swiss cheese that the general assembly has for decades now all that and so much more on this episode of transition virginia. Welcome to transition. Virginia's the podcast that examines the ongoing transition of power in virginia. Michael pope and i'm thomas bellman a tale. The podcast journalists turned lawmakers. It's really rare for the fourth estate to run for public office and yet the general assembly has to really prominent journalists turned lawmakers. So what's it like to leave behind the daily deadlines for the campaign trail. And how is their time. As journalists inform their work in the general assembly will ask them. Joining us is a former anchor for wd. Jay who was at one time the youngest anchor in the country and two thousand seventeen. He decided to run for office and ousted in combat republican delegate. Joseph joost delegate chris purse thanks for joining us they michael. Hey thomas good to be with you guys. We're also joined by the former reporter for the gainesville times and prince william times in two thousand seventeen. She decided to run for office. And take on encumbent republican bob marshall. She joined us earlier this year for discussion of her bill outlawing. The panic defense at an extended discussion of metallic delegate danika rome. Thanks joining us again. Thank you so much for the invitation to be back. It's great to hear from you all again. So i didn't warn you. Were also going to rank all the black sabbath albums. So you going to do that. By the ozzy years the dio years or the say so let's talk about journalists becoming lawmakers now as we said at the top of the show. That's actually really rare. You almost never see it. There are a handful. Why open question to the panel here. Why do we think it's so rare that people leave the profession of journalism to be elected officials. So i think one of the things is that part of our training is to be neutral dispassionate third party observers as we are earning journals degrees as we're going through the field we inherently just take on not only just a you know a lack of bias in terms of political affiliation. But at the same time. One of the things that we do is that we are truth tellers. We work in the business of accountability. In our is to hold government officials accountable. And so when you make that transition from reporter to legislator you carry a lot of the same skill sets with you but at the same time you also have to shift your mentality so that you understand that you are now that person being held accountable and that the job that you do as legislator should be that that you think when you were reporter a legislator should have been in the first place which is open transparent steady stream of communication with the public and with their constituents so that basically there aren't really questions about who you are what you're doing as people already now while i think every reporter who's on the scene and interviews a politician at some point in their career looks at him and says we'll help. I think i could do. This idiot. does guilty guilty as charged. Yeah right so i think that it does overlap. A lot of different skill sets you are exposed to a lot of the same kinds of issues and are able to then have an informed opinion about them when you cross over into the political arena. But i really think that a lot of folks see the media and have a very low opinion of them. So i think for dan. Can i just wanted to get into a career field where we were more respected than the media so we could politics now. You mentioned earlier. The sort of knee jerk reaction to be neutral and dispassionate. Was it difficult for either of you or both of you to make that leap to suddenly not be neutral and not be dispassionate. It wasn't too terribly difficult for me. I think that you know it's not rocket science how to maintain neutrality and how to be an effective reporter anchor journalist. And do your job. But it doesn't mean that you still don't have opinions. I remember saying that. I had to make that pivot that i had to kind of go all in on this new approach if i wanted to be successful Which meant trying to run for elected office and trying to share a vision for what you believe. Your community should be in the future and that opinion. You know something that you would never solicit when you were journalism. Not that he didn't have them. But because you are professional Part of what professionals do. But i made that hard pivot and and didn't look back. So what i did was. I took one skills that i developed a print reporter which was op-eds and writing editorials for example which is up. Nice started doing quite a few years in newspaper career. I basically took that skill set. And i started writing long form opinion stuff that i would put up on my facebook page for example and who knows me knows my style of legislating is i never spared detail and that i will bury when facts any chance to get the opportunity to do so and so like i wrote my own platform. It was like two thousand. Four hundred birds summit length. That and what i did that was so different in my primary in twenty seventeen compared to a lot of other candidates is every day i would be commenting on the news or i would be commenting on my predecessors bills or what. He wasn't getting past what he was trying to prioritize. Whatever and i would have these long form explainers that i would do online. That were so researched. They were fact based in. I could show back to new people with graphics. Whatever and in that regard. I was able to do something that i was already good at which was long form news writing only basically with the idea of like. Here's what i would do differently. And one of the things have poutney's frightening. Is that when you're writing for a newspaper. You get the luxury of calling out. Bad things without necessarily having to identify acceptable alternative or at least not a lot of detail. Chicks alternative i decided to do was have a lot of except alterative and one the other good things that i had was might training at the hotline. My secret weapon in the campaign was that i spent three and a half years covering campaigns for federal state campaigns for the national journal's hotline and that taught me everything i could possibly know about a campaign without actually having been in one and so by the time i have my candidate campaign training program with the ultimate hugh victory institute in november sixteen. I was ready to go okay. So we've got to interesting stories here to talk about each of you leaving journalism and deciding to run for delegate and data you were just alluding to some of that which you expand on that decision and what you found once you left journalism. What made you decide to leave. Journalism and run for office and which of the skills have translated the most well. It's not unprecedented to do it. Delegate lee ware. who's been around the house for more than twenty years. He was a former reporter and editor new hampshire delegate. Shelly simon's who i ran in two thousand fifteen again in seventeen and was finally elected twenty. Nineteen she was a newspaper reporter in south america actually ecuador and like the late state. Senator john miller he was a reporter. So it's not like reporters had run virginia but it tended to be that you didn't have a lot of nationally known state legislators who happen to also have been reporters and that's one of the very unique things that i actually brought. The table is that we were getting a disproportionate amount of media coverage in. I knew that it was going to be a story you know. Transgender candidate runs against a bathroom. Bill author either like. Yeah no kidding. So the skill sets that. I was able to transfer ability to research to write to ask questions research more. Ask more questions. Come up with the first draft. Go through an editorial process. Come through with the final copy go through a publication process and then going in defending your piece. All of that is lateral at the same time he is. I covered my district for more than nine years in from here. It was a real help for me to be able to put together a very hyper local platform based on the experience that i had developed as newspaper reporter and so after ten and a half years of professionally reporting four years of college and even to internal classes in high school and such. I was at a point where i was making twenty four thousand dollars with ten half years of experience as a newspaper editor. Which was the same amount. I was making as a rookie reporter in two thousand six. I was working two jobs one thirty hours a week. Fifty dollars an hour another weekend through delivery job for five dollars an hour plus tips just to try to pay the bills and i was. I was burning out. I was just. I needed change at that point in when the call came in from wwltv sullivan asking me if i would consider running the day after don shaw rinjani fifteen had asked me to do it. It came in at the right time. I was ready for a career shift at that point. But i would tell you. I miss being in the newsroom every single day by getting that he'll pass last year. That was that made a better and get her. I'll ask you the same question. Could you tell us your story of deciding to leave journalism and what you found. Traits and skills have translated the best to being an elected official Yeah sure i mean. I i wanna ta. We were talking about how. It's un- common for reporters to run for office but does not happen in hawaii in two thousand to know what happened in hawaii in two thousand and two in hawaii in two thousand and two about a half dozen reporters either at local news stations or the paper or nationally c. n. n. decided to run for office. There was a guy who ran for a state rep who's reporter at k. h. o. Win a former cnn and local tv journalists ran for lieutenant governor a another former tv reporter and producer who ran for city council a reporter ran for state senate a councilman. Who was someone who ran for council as a reporter. That's happening in two thousand and two in one year. And i don't know what happened in that year but when you read the news articles about why. They decided to run for office. There was a lot of the same stuff that i was mentioning the at the beginning. Which is that a lot of people who are reporters. They might get frustrated with the things that they see in politics and think that they wanted to go in and try it themselves. And i don't think that it is rare and it's early you know rare in recent memory that i can remember except for for danika in may but at so bizarre to me what happened in two thousand two in a way when you had six of them decided they were gonna leave their jobs and run for office. I've often thought covering the hawaii state house would be. Pretty sweet gig right. I mean like the former colleague of mine anti-cook lower rates for all hawaii news And i love seeing her updates. I bet hawaii politics are super fund to cover but but delegate her talk about your personal story though making that decision to leave the profession that you know you have done basically all of your professional life. What was walk us through that decision. Well it's kinda painful for me to talk about And it's really kind of unique in strange. So i i wish that it has maybe some greater meaning towards kinda this notion of why reporters may decide to run for office. But you know. I've been twenty fifteen thousand. Parker adam war were murdered at smith. Mountain lake live on television. Alison i were dating. At the time. We just moved in together and i went back to the tv station About ten days after the shooting had happened and You know every single day at the tv station was incredibly difficult. Because we met at work we fell in love at work and then she died at work. And then i had to go back to work every single day after that so at some point you just get really sick and tired of that and you wonder if there is a way for you to move forward and make something of your life when it was kind of all taken away from me aside thought about going to other markets you know. I had people. Because i i started as a reporter in in washington state in two thousand nine in eastern washington home of the world's largest nuclear waste repository the hanford site plan a the nuclear reactor where they turned all of the uranium and plutonium for the nuclear warheads while at turned out to be the biggest toxic waste cleanup that we've ever seen But it was out in the middle of nowhere and got caught in tumbleweeds storm my first day there. And what the hell am i doing here. Making eighteen grand a year and was there for about a year and then got the job in roanoke and started as reporter And i did mostly reporting when i was in college. That's all i really wanted to do. And then the guy who had been there thirty years keith. Humphrey and institution in western. Virginia retired and they made me the the six eleven o'clock anchor. It was crazy You know the newspaper headline said when keith humphry got the job at channel seven chris i wasn't even born yet and And so the whole time of my tenure at channel seven was first about proven myself In about working hard in about actually doing investigative reporting going down to the courthouse nearly every day. Searching through search warrants. A doing all of the stuff that is sometimes lost than differ newsrooms around the country and then alison was incredibly happy. You know the tv koppel and And then it all went away. And i thought that if i went to another market in which is what you normally do. Roanoke is In the top sixty media markets in the country and norfolk which is a little bit bigger. Richmond's a little bit bigger than have. Dc there are offers to go. There were offers to go to new york. La all that a lot of it. I kind of chalked up to charity and didn't really want to accept and then I also felt like if i did that then. Basically meant that. My career was progressing. The way that will always was going to even before you know I met alison. So i was like no i pretty much wanna make this a fundamental event in my life One that initially can be terribly depressing of that eventually could have some form of meaning and purpose and in the more i thought about that the more i thought that public service might actually be something that i wanted to do and then donald trump got elected in two thousand sixteen and i said well that jerk can get elected than anybody can get elected and i thought well why the hell not and and i reached out. I reached out to the to the party. i didn't know anybody in the democratic party. I didn't vote in a lot of local elections. Because that's kind of how. I was instructed at journalism school at emerson to try. And take out any opportunity for you to have subconscious bias by voting for somebody that you'd have to directly cover a lot. You know. I remember when my campaign did research on. They saw my irregular voting history and thought that it could be used against me. And i explained to him and they they thought that it made sense but i reached out to them and then eventually we put a hell of a campaign together and we were able to to flip a seat and then two years later we're able to take a majority and i i'm really sensitive to still wanted to be independent and not wanting to be seen as a political hack or just some part of a party machine but i. I think it's pretty incredible. What we've done in the last two years to help people in not necessarily to try to accomplish a particular. Party's agenda but we're really tangibly helping people in meaningful ways that has been delayed and delayed and delayed for years part of what. I campaigned on and twenty. Seventeen was i was getting really tired of covering the same crap all the time about our schools fallen down because they're underfunded about people not being paid a reasonable wage not being able to afford their bills but people who get trapped in the criminal justice system and can never get out. And we've taken a lot of meaningful action on that and so I really do think that was the right choice. It's great to have both of you in the general assembly. I think he has bring so much to the table and one of the things that you guys bring to the table. I've watched you in committee. And i've watched you on the floor. You're both great. And i think this comes from being journalists. You're both great at sniffing out when something somebody says doesn't quite sound right and you dig in and you ask the follow up questions and i've seen you trip up not not because you want trip them up but just because you want to again to the meat of issues. I've watched you both do that. And i think that definitely comes from having been a journalist. Why i remember. It happened few weeks ago when we had that bill abound vida right away and retrieving dogs and we were misled. Assembly on what. The intention in origin of the bill was and And so i needed to draw attention to the heck remember in. There are lots of us that have group tax everything in votes for saying that you know there's the investigative reporter you know a rare in his ugly head again though. Yeah i think for me i i. I don't know. I really wanna be a workhorse. Not a show horse and danika is exactly the same way. I think a lot of times. We can't get out of a spotlight even if sometimes were trying to maybe pass it to somebody else. But i think like danika also showed a tennessee like israel great reporters tenacity and i have. I have some fun stories to share of. When i did that sometimes too ill effect but you know when she was trying to get a notification for people who receive in public assistance for those folks to get additional notification on other benefits They may be entitled to. I mean she was running back and forth on the floor. Going passing the bill by temporarily working at out and then she she worked it out. And if there's one thing that virginia general assembly is that's totally different from dc. It's that if it's a bill with your name on it. You are the one who has to get that damn thing past because no one else is gonna do it for you and danika you know is just so tenacious and so fierce. What what was that bill. It was on had to do with the s s. One thank you doug at her so it's very kind of you in second on yet. That was the bill where been working with the department of taxation department social services it was basically designed to combat child welfare fraud which i think everyone else agree on and nothing came up on second reading like which is when you're supposed to debate. And so instead they tell me that the morning of third reading i was like no no keeping. My mother is from the bronx in the race in italian sicilian household away. You're not telling my bill now. So i had to take on delegate lee ware. Who's an absolute gentleman. By the way you know a negative thing about ways. He he really is a statesman. I telling telling me that he. He was not to induced about having to kill that bell on so stood on the house floor made mccain for. He withdrew his motion. Just senate back I made the best case. Could for the bill based on my word and my work ethic and yeah Actually ended up winning kind of a gag gift award out from the caucus afterwards for of the never say die award which is named after black sabbath Vita wanted stories. I was again tell. Last year i was in the house transportation subcommittee and One of the members from the other side who had like me been critical of the tolls on i sixty six was introducing a bill to add reverse toll to sixty six. Because for some reason this makes sense in the republican caucus that they're opposed to toll so they want to add more tolls in so. I told some the member sitting next to me. I was like let me handle this. One in is started asking question after question after question in got to a point of saying like so. I would ask the delegate here would she say to you're constituents ever go into dc during the evening or come home in the morning and he's like yes. Okay so you're saying that your constituents some of them will end up paying more tolls because of this bill. But you're against tolling right. And the only time i motioned to. Pb ability entire year because pb is like the harshest death. You can give a bell and typically we just gently lay a table but that one had to die violently for a reason and it was just like i wanted to make a case on this. Do not show up confirmed transportation committee telling us one thing publicly and then trying to act another way once you get here. That's just not how things are going to be an. Yes so i've also seen delegate hearst really really go into account and one of the things i really like with him as on the house floor. Very rarely. Dc our former news anchor ever stutter or triple. For his words he's eight. He always has since speeches while put together. Even if he's doing it on the fly he always had such a good argument for when he makes them but when the republicans try to gang up on him or try to surprise them she calls them on their crap every single time he so good on a speeding so good on the floor. It's just really something to watch. Won't i sometimes need to filter myself and have more that attitude. I had when i was on the tv station to make sure it in curse on air but no calling everybody jumps last year was probably not. It didn't help my bill gates passed. Now's eloquent. I think when you're on tv and I initially pursued tv news. Because i wanted a job where i pretty much could just watch television all day and His when i was a kid. I was a juvenile delinquent going into summer school failing classes detention every day so and also choirboy when i was kid so i guess i just You know i do like to hear myself talk dislike. Most politicians don't I'm working on it in. I don't like to do extended questioning of people who come to testify on bills or delegates as they're presenting their bills or senators try and be respectful of people's time. And and and that. I really try and do my homework ahead of time and i really try hard not to make people look bad Unless they really are just trying to pull a fast one on us. I do think that we have a lot of questions. You know especially on the floor. I wish that people would say what they wanna say and speak to the bail instead of trying to other delegates until like lines of questioning. That are always not started in in good faith so as i have a lot of thoughts on kind of how we to the process of legislating. Because it's so much like a sport with a with a rule block an unwritten rules and etiquette That's a lot of the stuff that i try and pay attention to that. I think is really important that that i try and be a good colleague. Okay well we've got to take a quick break when we come back. We'll discuss how being a journalist can inform the issues and elected official. Can care about and so we'll discuss what some of those issues are when we return from the break. And i'll tell you what doesn't help is when we have reporters like michael pope from wwltv. Etf these were not rioters and looters. These were patriots. I never called the people who storm the capital patriots. These were not rioters and looters. These were patriots. I never called the people who storm the capital patriots. We have to hold our media accountable. You can help our podcast hold. People in power accountable head over to transitions virginia dot com and hit the button that says contribute on patriot for as little as three dollars a month. You can help us speak truth to power and we're back on transition. Virginia we're going to talk about an issue that our journalists turned lawmakers. Have something to say. About which is foia requests now all journalists have stories about borough quests that have gone wrong or more to the point four requests that have been deterred by a local government or any government really charging money so governments can charge money for the staff time but they play around with this and they do a lot of shady things. I'll give you a couple of good examples here in arlington. Our listeners may remember several years ago. There was a police chief from alexandria so this is a neighboring jurisdiction. Police chief gets arrested for dui in arlington and so the police agency there said. Oh you want the booking photo of for david baker where we're going to charge you twenty four dollars for the booking photo and actually charged four different news organizations for a total of ninety six dollars that they took in by just giving that booking photo out to four different news agencies arlington also like all police agencies will talk about police agencies in the next segment but they refuse to hand over all kinds of documents like incident reports and investigations that are available in most other states so i was trying to get an incident report from an incident when the police killed a teenager and they refuse to give me the document but they would give me a six line summary of the document that they were going to keep secret but oh by the way they were going to charge for the staff time so thirty one dollars for a six line summary of a document that they were going to keep secret and then there was also a time when i tried to get all the foia requests that were sent to the arlington police department. They went to charge me. Five hundred and seventy three dollars for just a copy of the foia requests not the actual responses just the requests so delegate rome. You have a bill on this. That is now being considered by the foia council. Right talk a little bit about this effort to crack down on governments like than that abused the foia process to keep public documents secret. Oh why should i look at arlington. When i can look at my home of prince william county you know. I think this is one of those issues where four i got sworn in so this is after the seventeen election but going into eighteen. My was on the phone with evening. Misbelief and i was planning to introduce the first version of my bill to ban foia fees particularly for the first two hours six complete a foia request and i told them that look we have seen exorbitant. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of fees being distributed in single foia cases and they actually conceded to me that foia fees are used as a deterrent. And that's the problem. Because if foia fees are even to exist in the first place and in some other states they don't then they should only and exclusively beings cover the actual associated cost of staff time that it takes to produce those documents in. That's it you can't use them as a deterrent. Because that is keeping away tax payer funded documents from the public from the tax payers who have funded them in the first place and that is completely wrong and keep the mind. Reporters are the public and delegate hurson. I definitely had the same training about whether or not. You're supposed to participate in the political process. When you're reporter. I came to a different conclusion. Which was that becoming a reporter. Did not mean that i lost. My constitutional rights retreated grievances with my government. And so most of that. I got to do by you just by covering the news but the other part was i do get say vote news. The price balanced the end of the day. But anyway going into the eighteen session They told me it was a deterrent. I was like okay. We need to do something about that. The republicans had a majority at the time in my prioritization. At the time was actually what i thought was a little bit. Easier of a left was to get a free information. Act ombudsman at the state level. Who could help mediate foia speeds. I thought if we had something like that that in and of itself would cut down on. Perhaps some the need for foyer fees in the first place. So i worked at foia ombudsman bill from first three years in office in it gradually crawl along but still never made to the house floor. And that's something that be bringing back next year. But in the meantime though is headed constituent earning stephanie miner whose daughter is autistic and was on a school bus from my former elementary school woman to mullen elementary so right here in the thirteenth district and she had been physically dragged on the bus on by adult because she was basically more or less having a panic attack in the mom says she wanted to see the video of what happened to her kid and she was being told it was an cost thousands and thousands of dollars to be able to get in fact. She had hundreds of dollars up front just to be able to put in the request in the first place and then for a redacted video they were to charter four figures for it in. I think it was like. Wjla had ended up like covering part of the cost and she got a shorter version of it. She wanted and it was absolutely ridiculous that this mother who wanted to see what happened to her child was having to make the equivalent of half a year's worth of paying the mortgage and i thought that is ridiculous so i knew i filed that build this session that the bill was inevitably going to go to the foyer. Advisory council i decided to do was from the get go. I said okay. Look at the amount on get. Vaco physician counties in virginia on virginia coalition for open government. I wanna get my constituent here. And i want to get some of the members of the house general laws committee. We're going to talk about how this bill should go about getting to the pfizer council. And what will happen once. It's there and the goal here is basically frost to get a recommendation from the foyer. Visory council that we can present as legislation next year. Just like delegate. Hurst did with his police records. Bill from the twenty twenty special session that he was able to get past this year. They'll get hearst play devil's advocate. I guess in this case it would be government advocate. Which is sometimes they're overwhelmed with foia requests and there is actual staff time. What would you say to local governments who were concerned about their staff. Time being used to respond to foia requests from not just journalists but the public as well. Yeah i don't have as big of an issue overall with pricing people out for fees even though it definitely does happen my experience those colored by the fact that i worked for a legacy station at channel seven and i remember we were trying to get information on school disciplinary actions bicycle school division from doe and they said it was going to cost three thousand thirty five hundred dollars in order to provide the documents with the staff time and with the cost. And all that. I remember going to Dave sidell who was our assignment manager. Who's now the news director at. W t f in radio. My boss currently by boss right us island. A room aroma. Dave and i was like. I think they're i think they're trying to denies this request by price in this out and his much isn't it said it's like three thousand dollars and he looks at manila's we can pay that and you know sometimes you want to call them on their bluff to. It is a game. I think a lot of these cases. And i'd love to take gamesmanship out of it but the whole reason why we have it in foia code to allow for reasonable charges is because it does take up a lot of time and with this foia bill for criminal investigative files. That's coming online on on july. One do. I think it's going to be this cascade of work that is going to besiege our law enforcement organizations those custodians of rockford now but it is still going to be something. They're going to have to physically do. And so i'm sensitive to that i can. I can understand that okay. So legislative emails are considered working documents and exempt from foia and that infuriates people. Trying to get to the bottom of an issue sometimes. So what is your perspective on this. And how has it changed. If at all since becoming an elected. Well i have a newfound appreciation. For how a bill actually becomes law and how much the division of legislative services really is a part of that and those attorneys at the division of legislative services are our council. They are acting as attorney and i have frequent email conversations back and forth. I can think of a couple of threads right now where i was talking with those attorneys and there is you know There's privileged for that because we're having honest conversations about something that is about writing legislation a very technical way and i wouldn't have a problem with opening up access in letting people kind of see more of the process and how the sausage gets made but then one of the main reasons why i would you know. Honestly be a little brand about. That is because i'm pretty glib pretty honest of myemma responses and i just wouldn't lord knows everybody takes everything out of context right now wouldn't want that to happen. Though when my office gets foia request. We never around the idea of charging so on a fee even if it's frivolous even if it's annoying we just do the damn thing. We just process it and we get it done you know and from twenty seventeen. I was getting the question of well. Okay for maybe some of these. Foia fees are excessive. But what do you do about frivolous ones. Someone is just going to file them. Willy nilly. i'm like oh look you can put a reasonable cap. You can do x. y. or z. There are ways to mitigate this but if you shut down the conversation before get started and you're coming at it from the approach of how do i kill the bill as opposed to. How do i work to make it so that. The public has more accessibility to their documents in the first place. That means that you're approaching the issue from the wrong angle and one of my purchase as legislators. How do we get to yes. I mean look. I have voted against a lot. Lot of foia exemptions even want remember delegate actually called over to be like you sure on this one guy at the same time when there's foia exemption bills that are on uncontested calendar you wanna pick your battles of it and so i don't have a perfect record on on opposing every single one but i am really picky and so that if any of them were on the regular calendar oh my god. I'll vote against harvey. Just i want us to strengthen foia instead of treating it like the swiss cheese that the virginia general assembly has for decades. Now speaking of foia exemptions. We're going to take a break and talk about police documents which are exempted largely from public disclosure. So we'll be right back k. You yes you. You're listening to transition. Virginia right now. And you're probably a fan the podcast right. Well then and review like cover sutherland. One-star the only time i listened. It's that's not really what i was thinking. How about this review from richard. Crouse this piece of shit podcast. I wouldn't even right one star come on listeners. Hit the pause button right now and give us a quick review and we're back on transition. Virginia were talking to former journalists. Turn lawmakers about their experience in the general assembly and how they take that experience from journalism into their work as lawmakers in this most recent session delegate hearst. You had a very interesting bill about police documents. I think many of our listeners probably would be surprised to learn how unavailable police documents are in. Virginia i actually started my work as a journalist. Down in florida and one of my first jobs in journalism was driving to the local police department every day and getting stack of incident reports and driving them back to the newspaper and then sort of typing them up. And so that's when you would find interesting things that are in the documents and put them in the newspaper right. So when i got the virginia i went to my local police department. I said okay. Where am i incident reports and the said. We're not going to give them to you. And i said what do you mean. They're not going to get. And so i spent years trying asking pleading issuing foia requests talking to elected officials and just got nowhere with getting police. Documents get hearst talk about your bill and your own personal experience with this issue. Sure so right. Now it only has been for the last couple of decades If you are enquiring about something that police responded to they can give you. What's called incident information. Which is basically time place. Some other details what you might need in order to put together a little blurb in your paper or put onto your newscast. Now that's important relevance because you know that's the primary way that people are able to understand it consume what's going on communities so the price certainly does have a role to play in informing the public of what's going on and we do that. With criminal incident. Information will is still not legal although it will be is the automatic release of criminal investigative files so this is the investigation. You know. what's in that manila folder. That has all of the relevant materials that the law enforcement agencies using as they are investigating a crime or a potential crime. It is exceedingly difficult to get those records right now. That is discretionary release. Doug it hurts con jump in here real quick. So you said it's discretionary. My experience dealing with police departments in virginia is. It's always discretionary way. We're not going to give it to you. So they've got this discretion. And i think they actually fear that if there is any police department that is using their discretion to share information that that will create a precedent that they don't wanna follow actually did a project years ago where. I tried to foia different kinds of police documents. They would not give me any of them. So i asked for an incident report for a robbery that happened in my neighborhood and i asked for an incident report of a high profile arrest and i asked for an incident report of a case that had been closed and i asked for like you know when i picked different kinds of cases and what i found was they would always say no in all circumstances because they didn't want to set a precedent so it's true that they have this discretion but they always use the discretion one way. Yeah i did. Seven years as a crime and court reporter in roanoke and i never had a foia. Request accepted for criminal investigator. Files and i did cold-case the series in conjunction with local law enforcement and virginia state police. They partnered with us undoing cocaine stories and even still we were only able to get sometimes just a photograph as far as us being able to look at a at a case file. I think that this is probably the most surprising thing listeners and people that might not be aware of the details of how this work that even enclosed cases. They still won't give you the documents now. And that is destructive to the public. Because i get roads trust in our institutions especially one that is so important as law enforcement to investigate crimes that happened to us as citizens but also remember that. It's not just about helping the president. And i think that's a secondary tertiary thing that you can even look at. This is about really making sure that out when these case files are completed. We're not even talking pending here. Because that's another huge is in weighty thing to try and tackle that as an investigation is still pending ability to you have to gather that information which you described in florida right. Go into the stack. Those are all those are pending incident. Reports you're getting and they still gave him to you in florida. And that's not. What's going to change in virginia what it would be for would be completed cases and that's so critically important because we have cases in virginia where folks have really been harmed in negatively a because of bad behavior in police investigations. A look at the norfolk four where you had four men who were wrongfully convicted of a nine hundred ninety seven rape and murder and we found out that a detective coerce the man into admitting the crime and now there is a real plea out there to figure out what what other cases was he involved in that he also might have coerced individuals into confessing. And we we need access to those files in order to do work for stuff like that being able to look at what officers really wrote in their incident reports as they are describing what happened in an officer involved shooting because if what they say in that incident report isn't matched up by body camera footage or witness testimony. That's really really important stuff to now as these cases are completed so there's tons of things that we need to look at what these closed investigative files and yet and still i don't think is going to be able to fully. Shed light on all of the things that i think the public would love to have further understanding. I think this time in our society where we are. we support law enforcement. We really want them to be great partners with us in our community. We want to give them the resources and the tools in the support that they need in order to do that but the public. I think right now would really love to have some more understanding in some in some more investigation into why these terrible things keep happening and i think this legislation is part of that overall criminal justice reform package that we have tried to thoughtfully and methodically pass in the general assembly. To make sure that we can improve relationships not erode them to improve relationships because again the public has to give consent in order to be governed. And i think a lot of people right now when they say say my name. I can't breathe in that. I support black lives matter. They're saying that we didn't consent to this type of governing. And i think it's up to us as lawmakers to try and provide tools and an opportunity for us to have a greater understanding in trying change the dynamic delegate rome what would you say to someone from the law enforcement community that would say these documents the delegate hearst wants would jeopardize an investigation and even if it's a closed case the document and that close case might jeopardize investigation of a separate case. That's an open case so we need the secrecy to do our work. What would you say to that argument. So we have existing precedent for this and other states. Virginia doesn't have to be the most hardest state in the nation for everything. Sometimes we can actually have a little bit of transparency in our government and we can actually use foia to get information and to give people their documents instead of looking at it from the angle of. Okay what loophole can we use to get around having to do it. And doug hearses asking for here on what the law is now is not going to impede in existing criminal investigation. Nor is it gonna hurt your ability to go back into a file here. What we're doing here is we're trying to bring light to real problems that have come up and the sort of requests that are gonna come up for. This are not going to be frequent but when they do come up. They're going to matter a lot. That's a nice place to leave if you have comics. Questions disagreements serious objections to what you just heard or maybe you only wanna tell us what you think about the show right an email. Send it to us at transition via podcasts at gmail.com so we can read it on. The air subscribed to transition. Virginia anywhere pods are cast. Follow the transition team on twitter at transition. Va and find us on the west at transition. Virginia dot com. Don't forget to like and subscribe so you can enjoy our next episode of transition virginia.

foia danika rome general assembly Michael pope hawaii virginia Virginia danika Delegate chris thomas bellman Joseph joost chris purse prince william times poutney hugh victory institute Delegate lee ware Shelly simon Senator john miller patriots