Columbia Borough police logo

Columbia Councilwoman Sharon Lintner has been trying to get a copy of the borough police department's use-of-force policy since June 4.

She still doesn't have it.

She said she tried to get her concerns about getting access to the policy addressed at a council executive session after a council meeting earlier this month, but it wasn't discussed.

“The rest of council has since then made it clear to me they don't want to see" the policy, Lintner said Tuesday.

Council President Heather Zink said council wasn't going to make a statement on the matter, but added council is working with its solicitor on redacting parts of the use-of-force policy so that parts of it could be made public.

Chief Jack Brommer says he doesn't have a problem letting Lintner see the policy; there's just been some hiccups in arranging a meeting so far.

Why not post the policy online as some police departments have done, especially amid calls for transparency and accountability following the death of George Floyd?

To that question Brommer replied, “We consider it an operational and internal document and are not prepared to put it up."

Erik Arneson, executive director of the state Office of Open Records, said the agency has ruled that use-of-force policies are public record — subject to some redaction of certain information, such as information pertaining to officer safety.

But just because information can be withheld from the public doesn't mean it must be, Arneson said.

"We always encourage the posting of as much information as possible," he said.

Lintner said she was spurred to ask about the borough's policy in light of George Floyd's death. She also recently took an webinar put on by a law firm for municipal officials about use of force and wants to understand the borough's, she said.

“Basically what I’m getting is not help, but a list of reasons why I should not get it. And excuses," she said.

One concern she was told was that council members might not have the expertise to understand the policy. She dismissed that.

“I read the Philadelphia one. It’s not that complex," she said.

Another concern raised was that criminals might read the policy.

She dismissed that rationale as well.

“Crimes are generally spontaneous. I don't think they'd sit around and read police use of force policies and decide where to commit a crime," she said. Noting that other departments are putting their use of force policies online — she cited Philadelphia, Lancaster and York as examples — she said the timing is right for access.

“I am not saying the police department did anything wrong. I am not anti-police,” Lintner said. “I just asked to see it.”


For related coverage:

What to Read Next