Lafayette lawyer turns media outlet to monitor police, sues to force city’s hand
But does attorney Kirk Freeman’s news outlet, a gambit to keep up on Lafayette police, make him part of the media? He says absolutely
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LAWSUIT PUTS QUESTION OUT THERE: WHAT MAKES A MEDIA OUTLET?
Kirk Freeman, a Lafayette attorney, said he had questions – “so many questions” – about the recent expansion of Lafayette Police Department’s license plate recognition system and why so little was known about the Flock Safety system that LPD said had led to recovery of stolen vehicles and 41 arrests for various crimes during a quiet, nine-month pilot program.
So, when Freeman got wind that LPD planned to hold a press conference March 31 to explain more about how the system worked and that the city would up the number of spots monitored along city streets and roads, he asked for notification about time and place.
Freeman said he was told by someone at the police department that the event was only open to “the press,” he never got the time or location of the media availability, and he missed the official rollout of what amounted to a public phase of the automatic license plate reader system.
Freeman was convinced he was turned away because he’d asked pointed and embarrassing questions of the Lafayette police in the past. If it took being a member of the media to be in a position to ask those questions publicly, Freeman figured, he’d christen his own news agency.
He filed paperwork shortly afterward with the state to incorporate Freeman News Network/FNN, a media outlet focused on publishing via Facebook and other social media feeds.
That didn’t sway LPD, which responded to Freeman’s request to be recognized as media with this April 6 email from the department’s administrative services: “Your demand to be added to our press release distribution list is denied. It is the prerogative of the Lafayette Police Department to identify credible news organizations or other parties we feel should receive Press Releases.”
“So, I sued to execute my constitutional rights,” Freeman said late last week.
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