FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1997-064
October 8, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Christopher Hoffman and The New Haven Register, Complainants
against
Richard Borer, Jr., Mayor, City of West Haven; Michael J. Kelly, Chief of Police, West Haven Police Department; and Officer John Jarvie, West Haven Police Department, Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 22, 1997, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of Section 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. On numerous occasions between January 10 and February 6, 1997, the complainant Hoffman requested to inspect and receive copies from the respondents of press releases about arrests in the City of West Haven.

3. On numerous occasions between January 10 and February 6, 1997, the respondents furnished press releases containing basic information about arrests, but not including any narrative of the events of the arrest. Between February 6 and February 10, 1997, press releases containing a limited narrative were issued for some arrests, but no press release of any kind was issued in connection with other arrests. After February 10, 1997, arrest information concerning arrests for which there was no press release was provided on the day following the date of the request.

4. By letter filed with the Commission on February 19, 1997, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated 1-20b, G.S., by failing to make narratives of arrests available to the complainant, by issuing no press release or other report concerning arrests on some occasions, by issuing press releases or other reports concerning arrests on some occasions on the day following the date of the request. The complaint also requested that civil penalties be imposed on the respondents for said violations, but the complainants withdrew this request at the close of the hearing.

5. Based upon 1-21i(b)(1), G.S., it is found that, because the complaint was postmarked on February 15, 1997, only violations following January 15, 1997 are within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

6. Section 1-20b, G.S., states:

(a) Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided in this section, 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, except that disclosure of data or information other than that set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section shall be subject to the provisions of subdivision (3) of subsection (b) of section 1-19. Any personal possessions or effects found on a person at the time of such person's arrest shall not be disclosed unless such possessions or effects are relevant to the crime for which such person was arrested.

(b) For the purposes of this section, "record of the arrest" means (1) 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, and (2) at least one of the following, designated by the law enforcement agency: the arrest report, incident report, news release or other similar report of the arrest of a person.

7. It is found that some press releases containing narratives may be in the computer of the respondent Jarvie, but that such press releases would have been requested before January 16, 1997. Therefore, based upon the present complaint, the alleged violation concerning such press releases is not within the Commission’s jurisdiction.

8. It is found that after February 6, 1997, there were a certain number of arrests for which no report or news release was provided as requested.

9. It is found that the respondents did not assert any exemptions for records of law enforcement agencies pursuant to 1-19(b)(3), G.S., as referenced in 1-20b(b)(2), G.S. Accordingly, the 1-19(b)(3), G.S., exemption is not justification in law for not providing a report or news release for a certain number of arrests after February 6, 1997.

10. It is found that after February 10, 1997, there were a certain number of arrests for which the news release or report was provided on the day following the day of the request.

11. It is found that during the relevant time period the same records concerning arrests were provided, without any discrimination, to Mr. Violante, on behalf of the Connecticut Post, and the complainants.

12. It is concluded that the respondent Mayor did not have legal authority to order actions by the respondent Police Chief or respondent Jarvie, and therefore, the respondent Mayor has no responsibility for the findings at paragraphs 8 and 10, above.

13. It is concluded that 1-20b(b)(2), G.S., must require the provision of some information beyond the items listed in 1-20b(b)(1), G.S., in order that the legislature’s 1-20b(b)(2), G.S., language not be rendered meaningless. All four options listed in 1-20b(b)(2), G.S., include in their common sense meaning a description, narrative or comment. Therefore, the additional information required by 1-20b(b)(2), G.S., beyond the items listed in 1-20b(b)(1), G.S., shall include some description, narrative or comment concerning the arrest similar to that normally found in arrest reports, incident reports, news releases or other similar reports, but need not include information exempt under 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

14. Consequently, the failure to include some description, narrative, or comment in each press release concerning the relevant arrest was a violation of 1-20b(b)(2), G.S.

15. It is concluded that the failure after February 6, 1997 to provide any report or news release for certain arrests, as found at paragraph 8, together with the failure to prove any 1-19(b)(3), G.S. exemption, as found at paragraph 9, constituted a violation of 1-20b(b)(2), G.S.

15. It is concluded that, while "next day service" may on occasion be legally prompt based upon the specific facts of a given case, a general practice of not providing a report or news release in satisfaction of 1-20b(b)(2), G.S., until the day following the request violates the promptness requirements of 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1. As to the respondent Mayor, the complaint is hereby dismissed.

2. Henceforth, the respondents Chief of Police and Jarvie must provide a report or news release in satisfaction of 1-20b(b)(2), G.S., which shall include some description, narrative or comment concerning the arrest similar to that normally found in arrest reports, incident reports, news releases or other similar reports, except to the extent that a 1-19(b)(3), G.S. exemption is applicable, and shall do so promptly upon request.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 8, 1997.

_________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission

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:
Christopher Hoffman and The New Haven Register
349 New Haven Ave.
Milford, CT 06460

Richard Borer, Jr., Mayor, City of West Haven; Michael J. Kelly, Chief of Police, West Haven
Police Department; and Officer John Jarvie, West Haven Police Department
c/o Henry C. Szadkowski
West Haven Corporation Counsel’s Office
355 Main Street
West Haven, CT 06516

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-064/tcg/10081997