FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Christine L. Kotrba and The Day,
against Docket #FIC 93-230
New London Police Department,
Respondent April 13, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 17, 1993, at which time the complainants and Genaro Velez, who was made a party to the complaint, appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The respondent New London Police Department did not appear.
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 of complaint filed August 31, 1993, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that their August 8, 1993 request for access to civilian complaints filed against police officers in New London had been denied.
3. It is found that the complainants by letters dated April 26, 1993 and August 8, 1993 asked to examine the civilian complaints on file at the respondent's department.
4. It is found that the respondent did not reply to the complainants' requests.
5. It is found that the requested civilian complaints against police officers are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
6. It is found that the requested civilian complaints include at least one complaint against the intervening party Genaro Velez.
7. It is found that the respondent through its attorney notified Velez through his attorney of the complainants' April 26, 1993 request.
8. It is found that Velez, because he had objected to a previous request by the complainants for his personnel file, did not believe that it was necessary to file a second objection, although he continued to object to all requests.
Docket #FIC 93-230 Page 2
9. At the hearing, Velez objected to disclosure of civilian complaints concerning him because that request by the complainants was within the scope of their request in contested case docket #FIC 93-111, Christine L. Kotrba and The Day against New London Police Department.
10. The Commission takes administrative notice of its record and final decision in docket #FIC 93-111.
11. It is found that the final decision in docket #FIC 93-111 concludes that civilian complaints pertaining to Velez are not exempt from disclosure, and orders the New London police department to provide both the complainants and Velez with a copy of each complaint filed with the department.
12. It is therefore concluded that the status of civilian complaints against Velez has already been decided by the Commission.
13. The Commission notes that the respondent New London police department failed to appear at the hearing in this matter to offer any defense to its failure to provide access to civilian complaints against officers other than Velez.
14. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide prompt access to inspect civilian complaints against police officers.
15. At the hearing on this matter, Velez's union representative maintained that civilian complaints against officers should not be disclosed if the investigation concerning those complaints was still open.
16. It is found that at least one investigation concerning Velez was open at the time of this hearing.
17. It is concluded, however, that Velez failed to prove that a pending investigation of a civilian complaint exempts from disclosure the complaint initiating that investigation.
18. The Commission also takes administrative notice of its records and final decisions in the following contested cases: docket #FIC 88-20, Schoenhorn vs. Tully, affirmed, Tully v. Narducci et al., docket no. CV-88-0459695-S, Superior Court, J.D. Hartford-New Britain at Hartford, memorandum of decision dated November 24, 1989 (Barry, J.) (records of all internal affairs complaints, investigation reports, interviews, memoranda, exhibits and conclusions concerning a trooper subject to internal affairs investigations ordered disclosed); docket #81-198, Clarke v. Hartford Police, affirmed, City of Hartford v. FOIC, docket no. CV-82 0275730, Superior Court, J.D. Hartford-New Britain at Hartford, memorandum of decision dated
Docket #FIC 93-230 Page 3
August 29, 1984 (Barry, J.) (written reports of internal investigation, review by commanding officer and review board of results of investigation, and referral by police chief of officer to department of advocate for disciplinary action, all subject to disclosure); docket #FIC 78-162, Whalen v. New London, affirmed, McCarthy v. FOIC, 6 C.L.T. No. 15 (docket no. 225196, Superior Court, J.D. Hartford-New Britain at Hartford, memorandum of decision dated December 14, 1979 (Kline, J.) (records pertaining to complaints against police officers and disciplinary actions taken as a result thereof subject to disclosure); docket #FIC 78-54, Meredith v. New Canaan Police, affirmed, New Canaan v. FOIC, docket no. 176212, Superior Court, J.D. Fairfield at Bridgeport, memorandum of decision dated December 1, 1982 (Freedman, J.) (records of written or oral complaints of civilians against police officer, records showing investigations and disposition of those complaints, and records of actions taken by the city or the police department against police officer all subject to disclosure): docket #FIC 79-94, Meredith v. New Canaan Police, affirmed, New Canaan v. FOIC, docket no. 179826, Superior Court, J.D. Fairfield at Bridgeport, memorandum of decision dated October 6, 1982 (Jacobson, J.) (copy of a letter showing final disposition of a civilian complaint by New Canaan police commission subject to disclosure); and docket #FIC 77-202, Hartford Courant v. Bloomfield Police Department, affirmed, Bloomfield v. FOIC, docket no. 145422, Court of Common Pleas, Hartford County, memorandum of decision dated April 26, 1978 (Schaller, J.) (names of officers disciplined after internal investigation subject to disclosure).
19. It is therefore further concluded that the respondent had no reasonable basis for failing to provide the complainants prompt access to the requested civilian complaints.
20. Since civil penalties were not requested by the complainants, the Commission in its discretion will not consider the imposition of such penalties pursuant to 1-21i(b), G.S., in this case.
21. However, the Commission takes this opportunity to advise the respondent that the Commission considers the respondent's failure either to provide access to the requested records or to appear and defend this complaint to be irresponsible and contrary to the public interest. The Commission intends to take administrative notice of the record and final decision in this matter if any subsequent complaints are brought against the respondent.
Docket #FIC 93-230 Page 4
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondents shall forthwith provide access to any civilian complaints against police officers.
2. The respondent shall henceforth strictly comply with the requirements of 1-19(a), G.S., and with the legal precedents described in the findings, above, concerning access to internal investigation complaints and other records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 13, 1994.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 93-230 Page 5
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:
Christine L. Kotrba and The Day
c/o Mr. Paul Choiniere
47 Eugene O'Neill Drive
New London, CT 06320
New London Police Department
5 Governor Winthrop Boulevard
New London, CT 06320
Mr. Genaro Velez
1024 East Lake Road
Oaldale, CT 06370
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission