FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1997-106
October 22, 1997

In The Matter of a Complaint by Thomas D. Williams and The Hartford Courant, Complainants
against
Joseph Croughwell, Chief of Police, Hartford Police Department; Henry Langley, Assistant City Manager, City of Hartford; and Kevin Dubay, Corporation Counsel, Office of the Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford   Respondents

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 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 1-18a(a), G. S.

2. By letter of complaint dated March 12, 1997, and March 25, 1997, respectively, and filed with the Commission on March 13, 1997, and March 26, 1997, respectively, the complainants appealed from the respondents’ denial of records more fully described in paragraph 3, below.

Specifically, the complainants sought the following records:

a. The audio tapes of radio transmissions related to a February 14, 1997 incident in Bloomfield, Connecticut, in which one James Wilson was allegedly assaulted (hereinafter "audio tapes");

All police brutality complaints against Hartford Police Officers Michael Ancona, Hugh O’Callaghan and Jacqueline Middleton (hereinafter "brutality complaints");

The police disciplinary records concerning the three officers named in paragraph 3b, above (hereinafter "disciplinary records"); and

All records of the Hartford Civilian Review Board.

At the hearing, the respondents moved to dismiss the complaint against the respondent Kevin Dubay, Corporation Counsel, Office of the Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford on the grounds that the records requested by the complainant are not maintained by that respondent. The motion to dismiss is hereby granted.

Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

Except as otherwise provided by federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15, G.S.

6. It is found that the audio tapes are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

7. The respondents maintain that the audio tapes are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(C) and 1-19b(b)(1), G.S.

8. Section 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S., provides that nothing in the Freedom of Information (hereinafter "FOI") Act requires disclosure of:

records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of . . . (C) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action . . .

It is found that the requested audio tapes are not otherwise available to the public and were compiled in connection with the investigation and detection of crime in that they relate to the arrest of Mr. Wilson and the criminal internal affairs investigation of Officers Ancona, O’Callaghan, and Middleton, which commenced late February 14, 1997, or early February 15, 1997.

It is also found that disclosure of the audio tapes would result in the disclosure of information that may be used in a prospective law enforcement action and that such disclosure may be prejudicial to such action.

It is therefore concluded that the audio tapes are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3)(C), G.S.

The respondents maintain that the police brutality complaints are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3), G.S., with respect to pending complaints and are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19b(b)(1), G.S., with respect to resolved complaints.

Section 1-19b(b)(1), G.S., in relevant part, provides that nothing in the FOI Act shall be deemed in any manner to "limit the rights of litigants, including parties to administrative proceedings, under the laws of discovery of this state . . ."

14. It is found that, in addition to the complaints arising from the Wilson incident, the respondents have brutality complaints against Officers Ancona and Middleton but not against Officer O’Callaghan.

15. It is also found that the brutality complaints against Officers Ancona and Middleton, referred to in paragraph 14, above, are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d) and 1-19(a), G.S.

It is further found that the respondents failed to prove that any pending brutality complaints, other than those involving Mr. Wilson, were compiled in connection with an investigation of a crime or that they fall within the provisions of 1-19(b)(3)(A) - (G), G.S.

It is further found that disclosure of the brutality records does not and would not "limit" the rights of the respondents under the laws of discovery of this state because, notwithstanding their obligations as public agencies under the FOI Act, the respondents are not precluded from asserting any legal claim with respect to discovery in a prospective legal action. The complainants’ rights under the FOI Act exist independently from any party’s rights with respect to discovery in a legal action.

18. It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a) , G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with the pending police brutality complaints against Officers Ancona and Middleton, except with respect to such complaints involving Mr. Wilson which are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(3), G.S., and by failing to provide the complainants with any resolved police brutality complaints against such officers.

19. It is found that there are no disciplinary records regarding Officer Middleton.

20. It is also found that the respondents complied with the complainants’ request for the disciplinary records by providing them with one suspension report regarding Officer O’Callaghan and one suspension report regarding Officer Ancona.

21. At the hearing, the respondents provided the complainants with what the respondents purport to be all records from the Hartford Civilian Review Board, as described more fully in paragraph 3d, above.

22. It is concluded that the respondents, although unintentionally, violated 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to promptly comply with the complainants’ request for the records of the Hartford Civilian Review Board, as describe in paragraph 3d, above.

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

The complaint is hereby dismissed against the respondent Kevin Dubay Corporation Counsel, Office of the Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford.

2. The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainants with a copy of the brutality complaints described in paragraph 3b of the findings, above, except that the respondents need not disclose any pending complaints against Officers Ancona, O’Callaghan and Middleton involving Mr. Wilson.

3. Henceforth, the respondents 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 October 22, 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:
Thomas D. Williams and The Hartford Courant
285 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06115

Joseph Croughwell, Chief of Police, Hartford Police Department; Henry Langley, Assistant City Manager, City of Hartford; Kevin Dubay, Corporation Counsel, Office of the Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford
c/o Helen Apostolidis, Esq.
Assistant Corporation Counsel
550 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-106/FD//tcg/10221997