FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Charlie Santiago Zapata,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-534

Chief, Police Department,

City of Bridgeport,

 
  Respondent October 11, 2005
       

 

The above-captioned matter was consolidated for hearing with Docket # FIC 2005-128, also captioned Charlie Santiago Zapata v. Chief, Police Department, City of Bridgeport. Both matters were heard as contested cases on August 19, 2005, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaints. The complainant, who is incarcerated, appeared via teleconference, pursuant to the January 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Department of Correction.  See Docket No. CV 03-0826293, Anthony Sinchak v. FOIC et al, Superior Court, J.D. of Hartford at Hartford, Corrected Order dated January 27, 2004 (Sheldon, J.).

 

 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 1-200(1)(A), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, by letter dated March 8, 2004 which included an attached application form, the complainant made a request to the respondent for five categories of records: a) “[t]he Detective Division Manual (12.1.2, 42.1.1- 42.2.14)”; b) “Policy and procedure of collecting evidence, and the preservation (4.18- etc.)”; c) “collection/ preservation of evidence (83.1- 83.4.4)”; d) “Case Management”; and e) “any other information that pertains to these rules and regulations” (all together, the “requested records” or the “records”). 

 

3.  A series of additional letters followed from the complainant to the respondent and from the respondent to the complainant, culminating in a letter dated November 4, 2004 from the respondent’s Records Division, which stated that the respondent had no Detective Division Bureau Manual.

 

4.  By letter dated November 18, 2004, but filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission”) on November 16, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent’s failure to provide various records, including especially the Detective Division Manual, violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

 

5.  Prior to the August 19, 2005 hearing, the complainant and the respondent continued their correspondence, with the respondent’s letter dated June 22, 2005, the complainant’s letter dated June 28, 2005, and the respondent’s letter dated July 11, 2005. Respondent’s last letter included an enclosure of more than 400 pages, which comprised a copy of the Policies and Procedures of the City of Bridgeport Police Department (in effect from 1993 through 2003).

 

6.  At the hearing, the respondent testified that a continuing search had recently located a locked file of old records, which included drafts of an attempt to formulate a working field manual that had, in fact, never been approved. The complainant’s citations in his request for the records corresponded in substantial part to these drafts of a never adopted field manual.

 

7.  After stating that a “preliminary draft and note” exemption could be validly claimed pursuant to 1-210(b)(1), G.S., the respondent agreed instead to provide without charge a copy of the draft field manual to the complainant, after marking each page “draft”. The respondent expressed concern about the confusion that could continue to result if excerpts of the draft field manual were allowed to circulate within the prison population based upon a mistaken belief that the draft field manual represented the respondent’s established policies and procedures.

 

8Pursuant to Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies 1-21j-38, a late filed exhibit with attachments dated August 29, 2005, was admitted into evidence after the close of the hearing, without objection. The attachments included: a) the first twenty pages of the Policies and Procedures of the City of Bridgeport Police Department, to replace pages previously furnished (see paragraph 5, above), which complainant testified had been provided either blank or not fully copied; and b) sections 42.1.1- 42.2.14 and 83.1- 83.4.4 of the draft field manual (see paragraphs 2a and c, 6 and 7, above). Counsel for the respondent further explained that the draft field manual did not contain any section 12.1.2 (see paragraph 2a, above), and that a partial copy that complainant submitted that purported to be from section 12.1.2 actually was a copy of the language from section 42.1.2.

 

9.      Section 1-210(a), G.S., states 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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. (emphasis added)

 

10.  Section 1-212(a), G.S., states in relevant part:

 

Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. (emphasis added)

 

11.  It is found that the requested records are “public records” within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S.

 

12.  It is found that, primarily because the complainant’s request included citations to sections of draft records, which were not correctly identified, the staff of the respondent experienced understandable confusion and the initial search for the requested records was thereby frustrated.

 

13.  It is found that the complainant himself probably did not realize that the records he was requesting were only a draft of a field manual, and not the respondent’s established policies and procedures.

 

14.  It is found that, because of an incorrect initial description of the requested records, counsel to the respondent had to perform an extraordinary search, beyond normal diligence, in order to locate the records.

 

15.  The Commission is unable to ascertain whether the complainant received the records by overnight delivery with the late filed exhibit dated August 29, 2005, as detailed at paragraph 8, above.

 

 

            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 send to the clerk of the Commission a copy of the records as detailed in paragraph 8 of the findings above.  The clerk shall then mail said records to the complainant at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of October 11, 2005.

 

________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

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:

 

Charlie Santiago Zapata, #207172

Cheshire Correctional Institution

900 Highland Avenue

Cheshire, CT 06410

 

Chief, Police Department,

City of Bridgeport 

c/o Melanie J. Howlett, Esq.

Assistant City Attorney

999 Broad Street, 2nd floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-534FD/paj/10/14/2005