Student newspaper wins access to police records

Corinna Zarek | Freedom of Information | Reaction | August 28, 2008

The Kentucky Attorney General this summer sided with Eastern Kentucky University's Progress student newspaper, deciding it should have access to university police reports free from widespread redactions. The attorney general's opinion, in response to a filing earlier this year by the paper, said the university police department was misusing Kentucky law intended to protect privacy interests to over-censor its reports.

Now, the university policy must first show why the release of certain information would be an invasion of privacy before redacting information such as addresses, which the Progress said had previously been withheld as a blanket measure.

But Progress staffers are right to acknowledge they're not out of the woods yet. The AG's interpretation applies to records requested under Kentucky's Open Records Act, which gives a state entity three days to respond to a request -- too much time if you're a reporter needing to publish arrest information on deadline. The question remains whether the university police will adopt the AG's stance for immediate release of records. Previously, the police would voluntarily release reports weekly, but they would be heavily redacted.

Progress staffers say they plan to push the university to release the full records without requiring the formal requests.