A local Colorado police department has refused a television station’s request for instant messages exchanged between officers, saying they do not constitute public records.
According to a memo sent to Westminster police employees, a random internal audit of the department’s internal electronic messaging system revealed that employees were sending messages containing derogatory or otherwise sexually offensive comments, sometimes about each other.
CBS4 interviewed First Amendment attorney Tom Kelley who said the messages are of public concern because they were sent while the officers were on duty, and they should be released.
As the Reporters Committee spells out in its guide to access to electronic communications, Colorado law says that "content of electronic mail that does not bear a demonstrable connection to discharge of public functions or to the receipt or expenditure of public funds is not a public record." The police department argues that the messages relate to neither, and so they are exempt from public disclosure.