There’s a reason for the Florida Man meme, and—surprise!—it isn’t because Florida is particularly weird or strange. As the Miami New Times explained in 2015, it’s because open government laws make all records—including the colourful arrest records that are the heart and soul of Florida Man encounters—publicly available.
The Star’s Ed Keenan is jealous: in Canada, this sort of thing is very hard for reporters to extract from government officials. Even if you know the document exists, you aren’t granted access, or if you are it’s heavily redacted. Ironically, one way for Canadian reporters to get the goods is to go to Florida.
When Rob Ford was running for mayor, the mug shot from his long-past Florida DUI arrest appeared in Toronto news outlets, alongside details of how he was alleged to have thrown all the money in his pockets at the feet of an officer and said, “Go ahead, take me to jail.” Toronto reporters just had to call the Miami-Dade police and ask, and all those details and photos were furnished immediately.
The Star’s Jim Rankin remembers an older story about when Norm Gardner, who was then chair of the Toronto police services board, shot a man who was trying to rob his bakery. “We learned he had a permit to carry a concealed handgun,” Rankin recalled. “He also had a permit for the same in Florida. I called Florida up and asked for Norm’s permit and training certificate. A kind clerk promptly faxed me a copy. Imagine that happening in Canada.”
Compare with the Rob Ford crack video: it was released 39 months after its existence was first reported on, and five months after Ford died (see timeline).