FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
against Docket #FIC 94-6
State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police,
Respondent August 10, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 11, 1994, 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 of complaint filed January 5, 1994 and supplemented by a letter filed January 21, 1994, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that his repeated requests to the respondent for record of arrest information had been denied.
3. It is found that the complainant first began seeking arrest information regarding certain individuals by letter dated August 28, 1993, in which he inquired whether there were particular forms he needed to fill out.
4. It is found that, following further correspondence, the complainant by letter to the respondent's reports and records unit dated September 30, 1993 requested arrest information concerning two named individuals, whose dates of birth were supplied by the complainant.
5. It is found that, following further correspondence and other communication, the complainant received copies of certain documents from the respondent on December 14, 1993.
6. It is found that by letter dated December 14, 1993, the complainant indicated to the respondent that it was not possible for him to determine from certain of the documents provided the name of the individual arrested, the individual's address, and, in one case, the reason for the individual's arrest.
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7. It is found that, by letters dated December 22, 1993 and January 6, 1994, the respondent replied to the complainant by indicating that it had provided all the public information in the records he had requested, and that the respondent could be of no further assistance to him.
8. It is found that the documents provided to the complainant consist of some 76 pages of investigative reports compiled by the respondent.
9. It is concluded that the documents provided to the complainant are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.
10. It is found that large portions of the records provided to the complainant have been blacked out.
11. The complainant maintains that he was provided with information that was not responsive to his request, and denied information that was responsive to his request for "record of the arrest" information that is required to be disclosed pursuant to 1-20b, G.S.
12. Section 1-20b, G.S., provides:
Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes to the contrary, any record of the arrest of any person, other than a juvenile, except a record erased pursuant to chapter 961a, shall be a public record from the time of such arrest and shall be disclosed in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15 and subsection (a) of section 1-19. For the purposes of this section, "record of the arrest" means the name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense for which the person was arrested.
13. The respondent maintains that all of the records provided to the complainant are responsive to his request for arrest information concerning the two named individuals.
14. It is found that, in most of the records provided to the complainant, it is not possible because of the extensive redaction to determine who was arrested, or otherwise how the records are responsive to the complainant's request.
15. The respondent, however, maintains that the information that was redacted from the documents is exempt from disclosure pursuant to (a) unspecified federal law, (b) 1-19, G.S., and (3) 54-142a through 54-142p, G.S.
Docket #FIC 94-6 Page 3
16. Chapter 961a provides in part:
Sec. 54-142a. Erasure of criminal records. (a) Whenever in any criminal case, on or after October 1, 1969, the accused, by a final judgment, is found not guilty of the charge or the charge is dismissed, all police and court records and records of any state's attorney pertaining to such charge shall be erased ....
(c) Whenever any charge in a criminal case has been nolled in the superior court, ... if at least thirteen months have elapsed since such nolle, all police and court records and records of the state's or prosecuting attorney or the prosecuting grand juror pertaining to such charge shall be erased.
(e) ... any law enforcement agency having information contained in such erased records shall not disclose to anyone ... information pertaining to any charge erased under any provision of this section and ... [the] person charged with retention and control of such records shall forward a notice of such erasure to any law enforcement agency to which he knows information concerning the arrest has been disseminated and such disseminated information shall be erased from the records of such law enforcement agency.
Sec. 54-142c. Disclosure of erased records. The clerk of the court or any person charged with retention and control of erased records by the chief court administrator or any criminal justice agency having information contained in such erased records shall not disclose to anyone the existence of such erased record of information pertaining to any charge erased under any provision of part I of this chapter, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
Sec. 54-142g. Definitions.
For purposes of this part and sections 29-11 and 54-142c, the following definitions shall apply:
(b) "Criminal justice agency" means ... any ... governmental agency created by statute which is authorized by law and engages, in fact, as its principal function in activities constituting the administration of criminal justice; including but not limited to ... the division of state police ....
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17. The respondent offered no evidence with respect to what portions of the requested records were subject to 54-142a, G.S.
18. The respondent also did not specify which of the many exemptions from disclosure contained within 1-19(a) and 1-19(b)(1) through (15), G.S., it claimed were applicable to the disputed records.
19. The respondent also maintained that it cannot identify the federal law under which it claims unidentified portions of the records are exempt.
20. The respondent also maintained that it cannot disclose which statutory exemptions, whether contained in federal or state law, apply to which redacted segments of the reports.
21. The respondent concedes that none of the records pertain to ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions, and that none of the requested information is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Gifford v. Freedom of Information Commission, 227 Conn. 641 (1993).
22. It is found that the respondent declined to offer unredacted copies of the requested records to the Commission for in camera inspection.
23. It is also found that the respondent declined to explain why certain information was supplied to the complainant in response to his request, and why other information was not.
24. It is also found that the respondent failed to explain why it did not offer any evidence or specific statutory-based argument to prove that any of the requested records are exempt from disclosure.
25. It is therefore found that the respondent failed to prove that any of the requested records are exempt from disclosure.
26. It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide to the complainant copies of the requested records of arrest.
27. The Commission presumes that the respondent may face a difficult problem of proof with respect to documents that have been erased pursuant to Chapter 961a, G.S.
28. It is found, however, that Chapter 961a, G.S., is only one of several bases upon which the respondent claims the records are exempt, and that the respondent has utterly failed to present the Commission with any informed factual basis for its decision under the Freedom of Information Act.
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29. The Commission also concludes that it may not abdicate its responsibility to decide this case based merely upon the conclusory assurances by the respondent that all information subject to disclosure has been provided to the complainant.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall forthwith provide to the complainant, at no cost, unredacted copies of the records previously provided to the complainant in redacted form.
2. 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 August 10, 1994.
Debra L. Rembowski
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:
304 East 178 Street
Bronx, NY 10457
STATE OF CONNECTICUT, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, DIVISION OF STATE POLICE
c/o Sharon M. Hartley, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission