Dunkirk Police may be in violation of state law because of how much they charge for documents.
Under the New York State Freedom of Information Law, governing bodies are only allowed to charge a nominal fee for reproduction of documents. The Dunkirk Police Department charges for copies of incident reports.
According to New York State Committee on Open Government Executive Director Robert Freeman, the police department should not be charging more than a quarter.
"The FOIL law limits the fee to 25 cents unless a different fee is described by statute," Freeman said during a phone interview.
The FOIL law is limited to 25 cents per copied page for documents up to 9 by 14 inches in size. The statute Freeman is referring to is legislation put in place. He said the only two organizations to have this statute are the New York State Police Department and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
"There is no statute upon which a unit of local government can rely to charge more than 25 cents per photocopy," Freeman said.
To file a police report is free. If an individual were to request a copy of a report that is not an accident there is a charge. Copies for incident reports are $7. Those who want the report expedited, the charge is $15. Accident reports picked up in person at the police department are free of charge for accidents that would not be considered minor accidents with damage exceeding $1,000.
Dunkirk Police also now offer online reports through Carfax. Incident reports will still be charged $7 and those who live out of state are now available to request reports electronically. To request an report electronically or in person, visit www.dunkirkpolice.com.
The Dunkirk Police Department is not the only police agency that charges for reports. The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office charges $5 for reports requested electronically through their website. Reports requested and picked up in person are free of charge. The Fredonia Police Department charges 25 cents per page for copies of reports. If the person was involved in the incident is requesting the report, the report will be free.
The State Police Department charges $15 to search for an accident report and no charge for the photocopy with an additional $15 charged for a certified copy of the report. For photographs or contact sheets, $25 will be charged. The same fees apply to investigative reports.
While the Dunkirk Police Department is charging for reports, the department does not see that money. All money collected from police reports is collected in the city clerk's office. All money is then deposited into the city's general revenue account.
Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano could not be reached for comment.
Comments on this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.