When pedestrian Blane Land was struck and killed by a police officer in Jacksonville, Fla., in May, his family immediately began digging into the officer's prior conduct. As it turned out, Officer Tim James had been investigated at least 11 times by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and would a month later be arrested on charges of beating a teen in handcuffs. To Land family attorney John M. Phillips, it looked like officers knew they'd "kept a bad officer on the force," per the Florida Times-Union. But in what Phillips says is an apparent attempt to hide that fact, he notes his request for public records about James' work history was met with an outrageous $314,000 bill—one of as many as three to come—which surprised even a former JSO public relations officer.
"I have never, ever seen a request of this magnitude, particularly this amount of money," the former officer tells Action News Jax. A rep for the Florida First Amendment Foundation adds such an "absurd" fee only comes when people seek information police "don't want you to have," but the sheriff's office denies that. Undersheriff Pat Ivey says Phillips' request was for 10 years' worth of information on all complaints against police officers and would require a review of thousands of pages taking up "a room the size of a small bedroom." A rep says the sheriff's office also produced an estimate for two specific items in Phillips' request, totaling $600 before redaction fees, but Phillips says he never received it. "We're fine paying for copies," Phillips tells ANJ. "But $314,000 is offensive." (Read more Jacksonville stories.)