Section 28A(1) – refusal of access – agency to be satisfied document does not exist –dispatch documents
The applicant sought access to records of dispatch documents concerning him passing between the Cairns District Police Communications Centre, Detective Bradley McLeish and uniformed police officers on 12 April 2007. The Cairns District Police use a database called ‘Computer Aided Dispatch’ (CAD) for recording radio communications. The applicant was provided with a 19 page printout of the relevant CAD records and a corresponding audio tape.
The applicant asserted that not all documents responding to his FOI application were provided to him. The applicant gave numerous examples of the types of documents to which he claimed he had not been provided access. However, Acting Assistant Commissioner Jefferies decided that documents sought that were other than dispatch documents were outside of the scope of the FOI application.
In considering whether there was a reasonable basis for the Department of Police (QPS) to be satisfied that it had provided to the applicant with all dispatch documents within the terms of the FOI Application, Acting Assistant Commissioner Jefferies applied the principles set out in PDE and University of Queensland (unreported decision of 9 February 2009). That is, that for the purposes of section 28A(1) of the FOI Act, whether an agency is ‘satisfied’ that a document exists or not is an evaluative judgement based on the knowledge and experience of the agency with respect to, among other key factors, relevant administrative practices and procedures including but not exclusive to information management approaches.
A/AC Jefferies indicated that in this matter the relevant key factors included:
· the nature of the request as well as the date specified
· the location at which the records would have been recorded and stored
· the system used to record and store dispatch records
· any alternative locations or systems in which the documents sought by the applicant may be stored.
In the course of the external review the QPS provided detailed information about the CAD system and the search methodology used when searching for documents in the CAD system responding to an FOI application. Having considered the information provided, A/AC Jefferies was satisfied that:
· all computer, telephone and voice (including radio) communication between police headquarters, police personnel and members of the public are recorded electronically
· the Cairns District police use CAD for recording these communications
· communications between the community and police headquarters in Cairns are stored only in CAD
· when searches are requested from the CAD system, the FOI Unit, QPS provides a copy of the application and often in addition, a covering explanation of the scope of the application to the User Data Administration section of the Police Communication Unit (UDA)
· the UDA always use multiple parameters to search for records because they are aware that the records are often transcribed from voice and the data may be changed in the recording
· all the information in an FOI application is used in the search including the person's name and variations of their name, their address, dates, times and persons or officers referred to ensure all relevant records are captured
· in this matter the UDA’s CAD searches would have captured all the dispatch records within the terms of the FOI application
· in conducting its searches of the CAD system the QPS had taken all reasonable steps to find the documents responding to the FOI application.
Accordingly, A/AC Jefferies affirmed the decision under review by finding that access to the additional documents sought by the applicant could be refused under section 28A(1) of the FOI Act on the basis that no further documents responding to the FOI Application exist.