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Massive document review underway at Grand Coulee police department

Leaky roof complicates process with mold

 


A leaky roof over the Grand Coulee police department’s document room is adding to the city’s cost of reviewing some eight years of documents at the request of police officer Sean Cook.

When asked about the request, Mayor Chris Christopherson said, “I wouldn’t try to make a story out of it because it isn’t relative to the public.”

The Star learned that the records request had to do with the use of force by the police and other matters.

Christopherson stated that anytime a police officer stops a person, that is considered use of force. That’s why the request requires the police department to read every report in the eight-year time frame, some 13,000 documents.

A request at city hall revealed that the public records request was made by officer Cook.

Cook requested all documents from any state or federal agency regarding pay or hours worked and any documents asked for about the department’s K-9 program. Cook is in charge of the department’s bomb dog.

He also asked for any pictures showing officer Adam Hunt’s patrol car when it got stuck at a site in Electric City. He also wants a review of all e-mails received or sent by Chief Hunt and Sgt. John Tufts from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 17, 2012.

An abatement firm, Emergency Drying Systems, was at city hall last Wednesday assessing water damage to several boxes of documents.

Police have been asked to search documents from May, 2004, to the end of 2012, and more than 40 working hours of Police Chief Mel Hunt’s time had been invested in the search as of late in January, he said.

Several officers tried to assist, but ran into boxes that were laced with mold. Four officers got sick and refused to continue the search for health reasons.

That’s when Ben Justesen of Emergency Drying Systems was called. He checked the roof and said the leak was probably where the two units of city hall came together.

Chief Hunt stated that he didn’t think the search could be completed by March 1, a task that now seems impossible.

Chief Hunt had advised the city council sometime ago that he had a leaky roof. The roof had apparently been patched a couple of times previously.

Two boxes of reports were covered with black plastic and the abatement firm intended to copy the documents and shred the originals.

Justesen stated that those who were handling the moldy reports would have to wear special uniforms, gloves and a mask so they wouldn’t get sick from the contamination.

“We can copy the documents and then shred the bad ones,” he said. “If we run into historical documents, then we treat those and save them.”

Documents dating back to 1975 are stored in the old holding cell area. Hunt said his department writes about 1,700 reports a year.

The records request will cost the city the number of hours the chief spends on the search (already over 40 hours), the cost of other officers who are helping and the abatement company charges — besides the cost of fixing the roof.

 

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