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Coalition co-founder Jennifer P. Brown

Kentucky Open Government Coalition co-founder, Jennifer P. Brown, investigates a recent controversy in Hopkinsville that city officials seem inclined to dismiss. 

Brown -- former Kentucky New Era editor, current Hoptown Chronicle editor, and a leading proponent of access to public agency meetings and records through Kentucky's open government laws -- masterfully constructs this story of a local police officer whose social media posts landed him in hot water -- and his public employer's tepid response -- using solid journalistic methods, including the open records law. 

The Hopkinsville Police Department's resistance to disclosure of the officer's performance evaluations is particularly interesting in this factual context.

The city's reliance on the privacy exception to shield records relating to the officer -- who engaged in very public conduct demonstrating an abysmal lack of judgment (if not worse) while wearing his uniform and perching on his cruiser -- is demonstrative of a conscious forfeiture of any privacy right he might otherwise have in his performance evaluations.  

The city misreads the relevant caselaw by equating a public employee's forfeiture of their privacy interests with the employee's commission of a crime. Moreover, it ignores the public's interest in scrutinizing the police department's oversight and management of law enforcement staff and its response to this officer's offense -- for example, how thoroughly the offense was investigated and whether the "discipline imposed" -- in this case training -- was appropriate based on the seriousness of the offense.…

For the Hoptown Chronicle, Jennifer P. Brown reports: 

"In the wake of an officer’s controversial social media post that drew both support and outrage from community members and tens of thousands of TikTok users, Hopkinsville Police Chief Jason Newby says he’s coordinating plans for all officers to undergo diversity training.…

"Officer Jerimiah Kline came under fire early this month after posting a TikTok video of him lip syncing 'Try That in a Small Town' by country musician Jason Aldean. The song was described by critics as a call to racist vigilantism after the July 14 release of its music video, which was filmed 

at the site of a historic lynching and included news clips of violent clashes between police and protesters at Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.……

"In Kline’s TikTok video — posted the week after Aldean’s video release — he’s in uniform and next to a Hopkinsville police cruiser with emergency lights flashing. It prompted responses from critics who questioned why Kline would post a video featuring the Aldean song after the recent controversy surrounding it.

"The concerns carry added significance in a diverse community. Approximately 27% of Hopkinsville residents are Black.…

"The video, which received more than 150,000 likes, was shared by dozens of supporters who posted videos of themselves lip syncing alongside Kline. Often, the posts included the hashtag #standwithjasonaldean."

Read more on the open records challenges Brown faced and the police department's obfuscation -- including its handling of a simple request for the officer's personnel file -- at…


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