FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-136|
|Chief of Police,
Department, Town of Thomaston,
|Respondents||October 28, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 30, 1998 at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The office of the chief states attorney requested and was granted intervenor status.
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(1), G.S.
2. It is found that on May 8, 1998 the complainant was arrested and charged with criminal trespass by the Thomaston police department for violating a restraining order.
3. It is found that on May 11 and 21, 1998 the complainant requested a copy of the record of his arrest and the victim statement. The respondent denied the requests on May 11 and 21, 1998 on the basis that the criminal trespass case was pending.
4. Having failed to receive a copy of the requested records, the complainant appealed to the Commission by letter dated and filed with the Commission on May 21, 1998, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by denying him a copy of the requested records.
5. It is found that the complainant is seeking access to a one page police report generated by the arresting officer (police report).
6. Section 1-18a(5), G.S., provides that:
"Public records or files" means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., further provides, in relevant part:
Except as otherwise provided by any 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. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void.
8. It is found that the police report is a public record within the meaning of §§1- 18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.
9. It is also found that on June 25, 1998 the respondent mailed the complainant a copy of a news release and a records database document, which records contain some information about his arrest. The complainant received the news release and records database on June 29, 1998.
10. It is found that the police report contains more detailed information about the complainants arrest, including a narrative portion as written by the arresting officer.
11. The respondent and the intervenor states attorney contend that the police report is exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(3), G.S. They further contend that disclosure of the police report would violate the rules of discovery.
12. It is found that the criminal trespass case is still pending and is being prosecuted by the office of the states attorney.
13. Section 1-20b, G.S., in relevant part, provides:
(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 .[emphasis added.](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.
14. It is found that the police report contains data or information other than that set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of 1-20b, G.S. Consequently, disclosure of the police report is subject to the provisions of §1-19(b)(3), G.S.
15. Section 1-19(b)(3), G.S., in relevant part, permits the nondisclosure of:
records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of (B) signed statements of witnesses, (C) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action .
16. Section 1-19b(b)(1), G.S., further provides, in relevant part: [N]othing in the Freedom of Information 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.
17. It is found that neither the respondent nor the states attorneys office provided the Commission with any evidence to demonstrate how disclosure of the police report would be prejudicial to the pending criminal trespass case within the meaning of §1- 19(b)(3)(C), G.S., or would in any way limit their rights under the rules of discovery within the meaning of §1-19b(b)(1), G.S.
18. It is also found that the police report does not contain signed witness statements within the meaning of §1-19(b)(3)(B), G.S.
19. It is concluded that the respondent failed to prove that the police report is exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(3), G.S.
20. It is also concluded that the respondents provision of a copy of the news release and records database to the complainant on June 29, 1998, some seven weeks after the complainants request for records of his arrest, was not prompt within the meaning of §§1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
21. It is further concluded that the respondent violated §§1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when he failed to promptly provide the complainant with a copy of the news release, records database and the police report.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Forthwith, the respondent shall provide the complainant with a copy of the police report.
2. Henceforth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the disclosure 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 28, 1998. _________________________ Melanie R. Balfour 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 Catucci 333 Scott Swamp Road Farmington, CT 06032
Chief of Police, Thomaston Police Department, Town of Thomaston 158 Main Street Thomaston, CT 06787
Office of the Chief States Attorney c/o Atty. Timothy J. Sugrue Executive Assistant States Attorney 300 Corporate Place Rocky Hill, CT 06067 __________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission