Court rules ‘911’ tapes are public records, must be disclosed ‘immediately’
OHIO–Tapes of 911 emergency calls are public records and must be turned over immediately to the media if requested, the state Supreme Court in Columbus ruled in early March.
In 1994 and 1995, The Cincinnati Post and The Cincinnati Enquirer made requests for transcripts of 911 calls related to four killings. Officials in Cincinnati and Hamilton County denied the requests, arguing that the tapes were part of ongoing criminal investigations and could contain information protected from disclosure under Ohio’s Public Records Act.
The court wrote that, at the time the 911 tapes were made, they were not “confidential law enforcement investigatory records,” since no investigation was underway. Nor were they “trial preparation records,” since no trial was contemplated or underway.
The court also rejected the state’s justification that the tapes were subsequently used in an investigation and trial. “Once clothed with the public record cloak, the records cannot be defrocked of their status,” the court held.
The court also held that neither state nor federal law prohibited the release of the tapes and that the particular content of the tapes was irrelevant. (Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton County; Media Counsel: Richard L. Creighton, Jr., Cincinnati)