FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
James Kane, David McClendon
and New Haven Register,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1999-023
Chief, Police Department,
Town of Orange and Police
Department, Town of Orange,
Respondents May 12, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 12, 1999, at which time the complainants and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(1), G.S.].

        2. By letter dated December 11, 1998, the complainants requested from the respondent chief:

a) a copy of the respondent department’s police vehicle pursuit policy (hereinafter "policy"); and

b) either an audio copy or a transcript of the respondent department’s radio transmissions recorded on December 1, 1998, between 9:20 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

        3. By letter dated December 16, 1998, the respondents denied the complainants request.

        4. By letter to the Commission dated January 13, 1999, postmarked January 15, 1999 and filed January 19, 1999, the complainants appealed the respondents’ denial of access to the requested records.

        5. At the hearing on this matter, the complainants withdrew that portion of the complaint described in paragraph 2.b), above, because the respondents had subsequently complied with their request.

        6. With respect to the requested policy, as described in paragraph 2.a), above, the respondents contend that portions of such record are not subject to disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(D), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(3)(D), G.S.], because it contains investigatory techniques not otherwise known to the public and that disclosure would be detrimental to the public interest.

        7. With respect to those portions of the subject policy not claimed to be exempt, the respondents maintained that they did not provide the complainants with such portions because at the time of the complainants’ request there was an investigation underway concerning an accident that followed a pursuit by members of the respondent department, which accident was the real subject of the complainants’ interest, and that they were hesitant to release information while the investigation was ongoing.

        8. The Commission notes however that the respondents’ reason for their failure to provide the complainants with portions of public records not claimed to be exempt from disclosure, is not a permitted reason under law, to delay access to otherwise public records.

        9. The respondents submitted the subject policy to the Commission for an in camera inspection on March 18, 1999. On that date, the respondents also submitted a redacted copy of such policy, indicating by redaction, those portions of the policy claimed to be exempt.

        10. It is found that the requested policy is a public record within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a) [formerly 1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.].

        11. Section 1-212(a), G.S. [formerly 1-15(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part, that "any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record."

        12. Section 1-210(b)(3)(D), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(3)(D), G.S.], provides in relevant part, for 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…(D) investigatory techniques not otherwise known to the general public….

        13. It is found that the subject policy is a law enforcement record that is not "otherwise available to the public" within the meaning of 1-210(b)(3)(D), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(3)(D), G.S.].

        14. It is further found, however, that the subject policy was not "compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime" within the meaning of 1-210(b)(3)(D), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(3)(D), G.S.]; rather the subject policy was compiled for the purpose of providing uniform guidelines to police personnel regarding the apprehension of a suspect fleeing by automobile.

        15. It is concluded therefore that the subject policy is not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(D), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(3)(D), G.S.], and that the respondents violated the provisions of 1-200(a) and 1-212(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a) and 1-15(a) , G.S.], by failing to promptly provide the complainants with a copy of the subject policy, in its entirety.

        16. Based upon the finding and conclusion in paragraphs 14. and 15., above, it is unnecessary to consider the respondents’ claims that certain portions of the subject policy contain investigatory techniques not otherwise known, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(3)(D), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(3)(D), G.S.].

 

        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 the complainants with a copy of the subject police pursuit policy, in its entirety.

        2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the promptness provisions of 1-200(a) and 1-212(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a) and 1-15(a) , G.S.].

        3. The Commission appreciates the respondents’ concerns about disclosure of certain portions of their policy. But the Commission also believes that there is a legitimate public interest in knowing the policies governing police personnel in general, and specifically in the area of vehicular pursuit, an area that seriously implicates matters of public safety and the well-being of our citizens using public roadways.

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 12, 1999.

 

_________________________

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:

 

James Kane, David McClendon|
and New Haven Register
c/o James Kane
349 New Haven Avenue
Milford, CT 06460
Chief, Police Department,
Town of Orange and Police
Department, Town of Orange
c/o Atty. Brian M. Stone
The Marcus Law Firm
111 Whitney Avenue
New Haven, CT 06510
 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1999-022FD/mrb/05201999