Personnel records

Luongo v. Civilian Complaint Review Board

August 15, 2016

The Legal Aid Society has asserted they have a right under New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") to a summary of the number of substantiated complaints made to the Civilian Complaint Review Board concerning Officer Daniel Pantaleo, a New York Police Department officer involved in the death of Eric Garner in July 2014. At issue is whether the summary constitutes a "personnel record" under CRL § 50-a, a New York state law that exempts some police personnel files from disclosure under FOIL. The Reporters Committee argued in an amicus brief, which was joined by 20 other news organizations, that the summary does not constitute a "personnel record," and even if it weren't, disclosure would not frustrate the primary purpose of the statute, which was to prevent personnel records from being used to harass officers in the context of litigation.

Maryland court rules police discipline files exempt from disclosure, but access varies widely by state

Jacob Donnelly | Freedom of Information | News | July 2, 2015
July 2, 2015

Police disciplinary files are exempt from the Maryland Public Information Act, the Maryland Court of Appeals said in a 5-2 ruling on Thursday.

The majority noted that the law exempts personnel information from disclosure and does not make a distinction based on whether a citizen’s complaint is “sustained” or “unsustained.” It said that mandatory disclosure of the findings could have a chilling effect on the disciplinary process.

Calif. Supreme Court rules names of officers involved in on-duty shootings are public record

Bradleigh Chance | Freedom of Information | News | May 30, 2014
May 30, 2014

The Supreme Court of California this week upheld a lower court ruling requiring a police department to release the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings.

In December 2010, Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Winton asked the Long Beach City Attorney‘s Office for the names of the two police officers who shot and killed a man in Los Angeles.

The officers were responding to a resident’s tip about an intoxicated man carrying a six-shooter though the neighborhood. When they arrived on the scene, they found 35-year-old Douglas Zerby. According to the officers, Zerby held up an object resembling a gun and the two of them reacted by firing shots and killing him. When the officers approached his body, they could see that the object Zerby was holding was actually a garden hose with a pistol grip spray nozzle.

Wisconsin can consider requesters' intent, court says

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | May 12, 2014
May 12, 2014

A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that state agencies may consider a requester's intent before releasing public records under the state's freedom of information law.

Previously, Wisconsin, like most states, did not require a public record requester to provide their name or the reason for seeking information.

The court last week was considering a case in which a man requested the employment records of a public school employee he was suspected of abusing. The Milwaukee School Board refused to release the information to that requester, citing a previous restraining order against the man and concerns for the employee's safety.

Police misconduct files should be public, Hawaii judge says

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | February 11, 2014
February 11, 2014

A judge in Hawaii has ordered the Honolulu Police Department to release officer disciplinary records under the state's public records act.

Civil Beat, a nonprofit news website, requested 12 officers' disciplinary records after publishing an investigative series on secrecy surrounding police misconduct.

Hawaii's police union intervened in the case to argue officers had a privacy interest in protecting their records from disclosure. Hawaii's public records law has an exemption for police disciplinary records when the misconduct does not result in the officer being fired.

Rhode Island revamps public records law to be more requestor-friendly

Raymond Baldino | Freedom of Information | News | June 27, 2012
June 27, 2012

Rhode Island's governor signed into law yesterday what open records advocates have called the first major revisions in 14 years to its Access to Public Records Act -- changes that will both make more records available and give requestors more rights under the act.

Ark. high court rules use-of-force reports are public records

Andrea Papagianis | Freedom of Information | Feature | February 17, 2012
February 17, 2012

The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision yesterday confirming that police officers' self-prepared reports – detailing instances where force was used – are subject to public release under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Names of police in Long Beach shootings subject to release

Rachel Bunn | Freedom of Information | Feature | February 10, 2012
February 10, 2012

The names of city of Long Beach police officers involved in shootings are subject to disclosure under the California Open Records Act, a California appeals court ruled this week.

The Second Appellate Court District upheld a lower court's finding that the release of the names of Long Beach police officers who were involved in shootings was not an invasion of privacy and the names were not protected as part of personnel or investigative files under the law.

Gawker seeks internal police records regarding Bill O'Reilly

Haley Behre | Freedom of Information | Feature | January 13, 2012
January 13, 2012

Gawker and the New York Civil Liberties Union have filed a suit seeking records regarding an investigation conducted by the Nassau County Police Department on one of its' officers -- an investigation the popular website alleges was prompted by Fox News journalist Bill O'Reilly who suspected his wife had an affair with the officer.

Mont. supreme court orders release of investigation letter

You-Jin Han | Freedom of Information | Feature | December 2, 2011
December 2, 2011

The Montana Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the city of Billings must release an internal investigation letter issued to a police department employee who allegedly made personal purchases on a department credit card.