“Freedom” of Information

On March 1, 2021, I filed three FOIA requests with the Birmingham Police Department. One was for any records concerning Christopher Brian Busch from the years 1970-1978. A second was for any records concerning Gregory W. Greene from the same time period. These requests were based on my belief that these men crossed the Birmingham PD radar before my brother Tim was abducted on March 16, 1977, and in Busch’s case, after that. It was also based on a remote hope that someone hadn’t gone back and sanitized the files after Greene and then Busch were interviewed in Flint at the end of January 1977, after Kristine was found murdered but before Tim was abducted.

I am talking about the kind of “sanitizing” that took place in the Columbine case when LE in Jefferson County, CO, destroyed a file on Eric Harris the minute they knew he was implicated in the Columbine High School massacre. It would take a decade and a grand jury convened by the CO attorney general to force a confession concerning this file destruction/document shred and the conspiracy to stay silent about prior complaints called in about Harris. The kind of sanitizing that might take place when a dirty politician leaves office. That kind of sanitizing.

I received a prompt response. The labor cost to merely locate any such records would be $3,244.80. A good faith deposit of $1,622.40 would be required to initiate the search

I also received a much more detailed response to my third FOIA request, which was for any records related to the murder of John McKinney on September 19, 1977. The cost for 1,070 pages would be $2,234.13. A deposit of $1,167.07 would be required.

I called Birmingham PD and asked for an explanation of costs. Here is what I was told. In the case of the Busch and Greene search, it would require going through eight years of microfiche. The time to search was estimated based on a search they had previously done for someone for one year’s worth of microfiche looking for Busch. The information is not alphabetized, nor is is searchable. It would require a tedious, time-consuming spin through microfiche for information which may or may not exist. I declined to go forward with those FOIA requests. Three thou for “sorry, no responsive records” is not my idea of money well-spent.

I asked why the detailed cost itemization was more complete, down to the number of pages to be produced, for the McKinney file. The commander I spoke with, who was actually very helpful, explained that this request had already been broken down and compiled a year prior. Two previous FOIA requests were made for the McKinney file–one by an individual and one by a media outlet. Both declined to pursue it after seeing the cost. I will address the McKinney file in a subsequent post.

I had a few other questions and the commander told me another commander would get back to me. He promptly called me back, answered my questions, and then called me back again, twice, with more information. He met face-to-face with one of my brothers last month. He offered to be an advocate for our family. While representatives of Wayne County–Cory Williams, Rob Moran and Prosecutor Kym Worthy–have always so treated our family, no one in Oakland County or with the Michigan State Police, has done so. Ever. This is an appreciated first. No gas lighting, no b.s., no evasion, no condescension, no hostility, no side agenda.

I am at close to 40 days post-deposit paying, waiting on a response from the Michigan State Police to a FOIA request I initially made on February 10, 2021. I paid the deposit on March 11 online. No word. It’s not a tough request. It is confined to specific material on very specific dates. To give you an idea, the request required a $270 deposit. Which means it will probably amount to two pages after they are done with the black magic markers.

The Federal Freedom of Information Act and its state counterparts were enacted so people and the press can keep an eye on how the government does business. How an agency responds to a FOIA request, let alone a letter or phone call, says a lot about an agency, too.