Who is Glen Roberts and what's he got against cops?
Who is Glen Roberts and why is he trying
to make life miserable for the
Ann Arbor Police Department?
Roberts, a 23-year-old Ann Ar~or native,
makes his living as a computer consultant,
but spends about half of his time 'i'aging war
against civil liberties invasions. ;
He says he doesn't like to pigeqnbole himself.
Regarding politics, he say~, "I can't
say I follow a right or left viewpoint. In some
ways, I follow some of each. I vote according
to my perception of goals and viewpoints,
rather than political party. My emphasis is
on smaller, more open government."
Roberts doesn't see himself as a rebel, but
as a public servant. Although some facts
about Roberts, such as his long hair, his untrimmed
beard and his status as a Community
High School dropout make him appear
to be a throwback to the rebellious '60s, he
He says his personal appearance is "probably
more of a rebellion against my parents
than against authority figures . I do have a
three-piece suit, and I wear it when I think
it's appropriate." Nevertheless, Roberts has been fascinated
by undercover police activities
for several years now. In June, 1983
he sued the Central Intelligence Agency,
challenging their refusal to comply with a
Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request
seeking "All documents relating to agency
rules pertaining to FOI and Privacy Act requests,
and all documents pertaining to the
kidnapping of David S. Dodge from the
American University of Beirut campus."
That suit, heard by Federal District Judge
Charles Joiner in Ann Arbor, was a partial
victory for Roberts. Some information previously
withheld was released, and he was
granted a portion of his attorney fees and
costs associated with the suit. He had asked
for a total of $1,492.79 as an award. He received
approximately $650. ·
About three months later, Roberts' nonprofit
corporation, Capitol Information Association,
sued the Ann Arbor Police. The organization,
dedicated to combatting
encroachments upon Fourth Amendment
freedoms, complained that the Ann Arbor
Police had inappropriately refused to supply
copies of all correspondence the AAPD had
had with various federal investigative agencies
about Ann Arbor residents.
Washtenaw Circuit Court Judge Patrick
Conlin threw the case out on a motion for
At the hearing on the motion, Conlin said:
"I absolutely will not allow another citizen
to gain information on me or all other citizens
in the City of Ann Arbor for your own
particular whim or reason.''
When David Raaflaub, the attorney handling
the case for Capitol Information Association,
pointed out that names of particular
citizens could be blotted out while complying
with the request, or that an exemption from
disclosure of particularly private material
could be claimed, Conlin responded: ''I, as a
judge, would not allow you or anybody else
in this courtrooom or anybody else in this
See ROBERTS, D2
CONTINUED FROM 01
county to request the federal government
to give you all the information
they have on me." Roberts has been successful
in gaining FOI access to
certain records of the Ann
Arbor Police Department. He has
been given copies of incident reports
which refer to specific occasions
of police activity, and he has
gotten his own police file.
Ironically, the only information
he was provided from that file, and
the only information the police say
they have on Roberts, were copies
of his numerous FOIA requests to
them. For this information, Roberts
was charged approximately
$30, be says.
Two years ago, Roberts sued the
University of Michigan, claiming
they had illegally barred him from
use of the Law Library and other
university buildings. Roberts' suit
was dismissed, but the order was
conditioned upon University acceptance
of Roberts' right to use the librat'y.
That suit cost him approxiately.$
Roberts says he is the only person
in Ann Arbor who has made
FOI requests asking about police
And he says he isn't through yet.
He wants to go through several
more years of police purchase orders.
After he has examined them,
he will decide whether to make further
Freedom Of Information Act
requests to see purchase orders
that may be withheld.
Roberts says he likes to create
things for himself. Besides founding
Capital Information Association,
he has also built a freelance
computer programmming business
Given virtually unlimited access
to )Tis junior high school's computer,
Roberts said he absorbed his
teachers' knowledge and educated
himself through countless hours
with the machines. By lOth grade
he left school, having decided to become
a computer programmer.
The three to five area businesses
to which Roberts provides computer
programming services pay him
enough both to support himself and
to help fund his commitment to
Capitol Information Association
and his investigation of the Ann Arbor
While smarting over some of
Roberts' persistent tactics, Ann
Arbor Police Chief William J. Corbett
defends the citizen's right to
check police files. "People like
Glen Roberts can be valuable,"
Corbett said. "Ann Arbor is a very
open, rather liberal community."
Two Republicans on the Ann Arbor
City Council, Gerald D. Jernigan
and Larry Hahn, both from the
Fourth Ward, downplay Roberts'
discoveries but admit he has a
right to snoop.
"His access to the documentation
is guaranteed by the city
charter," Jernigan noted. "He
hould have the ability to do what
the charter said. ~ut 1t doesn't
seem like a very big issue to me,
especially since we've had it (the
Bionic Ear) since 1983."
Hahn added: "My gut reaction is
his time would probably be better
spent in some other community
than Ann Arbor. I don't think this is
so difficult a community, but I
have no problem with him.
As to Roberts' motives? "I'm
sure he did it for his own cause,"
Hahn said. "He has an axe to
grind. He probably felt someone
was looking after him. There are
100,000 ·people in town who aren't
knocking down the doors to see
"But it's fine; it's available to_
him; the system works."
- SHARON RUBINSTEIN
University of Michigan - Law Library
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Capitol Information Association
Ann Arbor Police Department
Ann Arbor News
Patrick J. Conlin
Gerald D. Jernigan
David S. Dodge
Charles W. Joiner