A letter from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to the region's police departments spells out, apparently for the first time, a system that puts the prosecutor's office in control of whether police records are released to the public or withheld.

It warns of financial consequences for police departments that don't comply.

State law allows anyone who is denied access to a public record to challenge the decision in court. Montgomery's letter, though, promises police agencies that if they are sued over withholding records, he will "indemnify" them.

"There's a carrot and a stick," said Ballard Spahr Partner David Bodney, an attorney who represents The Republic and other local media outlets. "Withhold records when we tell you to withhold them and we'll indemnify you if you are sued. But produce documents that create a change of venue and we may look to you for costs. That's unprecedented."

Read the full article here. Subscription may be required.