The Ingham County Sheriff’s Department is looking to add a part-time communication and media assistant. The position will help ease the demand for Freedom of Information Act requests.
Undersheriff Andrew Bouck proposed the new position to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. The salary range is $20,410 to $24,339. He said it will be an important addition to provide assistance with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and engage with the community.
The commissioners approved the position March 22.
Ingham County Sheriff’s Office FOIA Coordinator Hattie Welling said the sheriff’s office processes the most FOIA requests in the county. In 2019, the office had 5,500 FOIA requests, about half being body camera videos. Due to the pandemic, requests were down to about 3,400 requests in 2020 and 3,000 in 2021.
“With that volume and the volume that we have with all of our other duties, having somebody here to help out to redact and watch body cams and vehicle cams, it would make the FOIAs go a little bit quicker and easier so we don’t have so many sitting in queue,” Welling said.
Welling said it can take six to eight hours to watch some videos. She spends about 90% of her time at work dealing with FOIA requests.
“With being the coordinator, there’s also other duties that I’m responsible for,” Welling said. “So having somebody here to help out with FOIAs will free up my time to be able to take care of the other office duties.”
Another aspect of the part-time position will be assisting with communications and managing multimedia platforms.
Bouck hopes the person who takes the new position will use communications to reflect the office’s value of “service excellence” and will help “capture the good stuff” the office does.
Chief Deputy Darin Southworth said community engagement is essential to policing.
“For us to establish a true sense of police legitimacy, we have to engage our community,” Southworth said. “We have to be where they’re at… We work at the pleasure of and are given our authority through community.”
He hopes the new hire gets involved through social media and storytelling.
“We hope (they are) interested in the balance of law enforcement and community and they bring a sense of what the community wants to know, what they want to hear, what they want to read, what they want to see,” Southworth said.