FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
against Docket #FIC 92-324
Chief of Police, Wethersfield Police Department,
Respondent July 28, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 7, 1993, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated October 5, 1992, the complainant requested from the respondent "access to the personal records, files of Sgt. Goldberg, Officer Labonte and Officer Lauzier."
3. By letter dated October 8, 1992, the respondent indicated that he believed disclosure of the requested records would constitute an invasion of the officers' privacy. The respondent indicated that he sent notices to the officers apprising them of the complainant's request and that he would notify the complainant of their responses.
4. By letter dated October 13, 1992 and filed October 15, 1992, the complainant appealed the respondent's denial of access to the Commission.
5. The respondent maintains that he was not certain precisely what records the complainant was seeking, but that he deemed his request generally to be a request for information contained in the subject officers' personnel files.
Docket #FIC 92-324 Page 2
6. It is found that each of the three officers whose records are the subject of the complainant's request objected to their disclosure.
7. At the hearing on this matter, the complainant indicated that he is seeking access to any records describing the officers' character or attitudes, letters of citizen complaint placed in their files, evaluations and records indicating whether the officers had any lawsuits filed against them; he is not seeking access to the officers' addresses, information pertaining to the officers' families, medical information, insurance information or salary information.
8. It is found that the respondent did not conduct a search of his department's records to ascertain specifically what records might be responsive to the complainant's request nor attempt to contact the complainant to clarify the scope of his request.
9. It is found that personnel files maintained by the respondent's department generally consist of a chronological history of the subject officer's employment with the department, beginning with pre-employment records and continuing through the duration of the subject officer's employment.
10. According to the respondent, the information sought by the complainant would predominantly be maintained in the subject officers' personnel files; and the following categories of records would contain information responsive to the complainant's request: psychological reports at the time of hiring and when considered for promotion, polygraph records, letters of recommendation submitted by third parties at the time of hiring, personnel evaluations and certain citizen complaints.
11. It is further found that in addition to the records contained in the subject officer's personnel file, as described in paragraph 10, above, the respondent also maintains "citizen complaint" files that contain complaints filed during approximately the last four years. Citizen complaints filed more than four years ago remain in the subject officer's personnel file.
12. It is found that the records described in paragraphs 10 and 11, above, fall within the scope of the complainant's request, as described in paragraph 7, above.
13. It is concluded that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
14. The respondent maintains that the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S., which
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provides for the nondisclosure of "personnel, medical or similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."
15. It is concluded that the categories of records described in paragraph 10, above, constitute personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
16. It is found that the subject officers had reasonable expectations of privacy in the contents of their personnel evaluations in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Chairman v. Freedom of Information Commission, 217 Conn. 193 (1990), and it is concluded therefore that disclosure of such records would constitute an invasion of the subject officers' personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
17. It is further concluded with respect to psychological evaluation records and polygraph records, that disclosure of such records would constitute invasions of the subject officers' personal privacy within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
18. Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent did not violate the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with copies of the categories of records for the subject officers, described in paragraphs 16 and 17, above.
19. With respect to citizen complaints against the officers concerned, it is found that such records do not constitute personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S. Rather, they are records of allegations concerning police conduct or misconduct in the course of official police activities.
20. With respect to any letters of recommendation submitted by third parties at the time of hiring, it is found that the respondent failed to prove his broad claim of exemption under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., other than to offer the objections of the subject officers and his general concern that officers expect that their records will remain confidential.
21. Based upon the decision in Hartford v. Freedom of Information Commission, 201 Conn. 421, 434 (1986), it is found that because of the respondent's failure of proof in this case, the Commission cannot discern whether any legally cognizable privacy interest would be compromised by disclosure of the subject records.
22. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with copies of any existing letters of
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recommendation, citizen complaints and any other records that may contain information responsive to the complainant's request.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall conduct a search of his records and shall provide the complainant without charge copies of any records that are responsive to the complainant's request that are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S., including but not limited to the specific categories of records described in paragraph 22 of the findings, above.
2. In complying with paragraph 1 of this order, the respondent may redact any information not requested by the complainant as described in paragraph 7, of the findings, above.
3. Henceforth the respondent shall strictly comply with the requirements of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 28, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
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PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
1078 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110
Chief of Police, Wethersfield Police Department
c/o Atty. Anna Crawford
Updike, Kelly & Spellacy
One State Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission