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Internal police report on shooting must be released

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Internal police report on shooting must be released 02/23/98 CONNECTICUT--A police internal investigation report relating to the wounding of a…

Internal police report on shooting must be released

02/23/98

CONNECTICUT–A police internal investigation report relating to the wounding of a civilian by a state trooper must be released to a reporter for The Hartford Courant, a superior court judge in Hartford ruled in mid-January.

The court found that exemptions in the state Freedom of Information Act for witness statements, investigatory techniques and motor vehicle operation license information do not apply to prevent disclosure of the report.

The report contained witness statements that were gathered in connection with a criminal investigation of the shooting victim. Noting that at the time the request was made there were no outstanding criminal investigations related to the incident, the court found that the Department of Public Safety failed to establish that disclosure of the statements would not be in the public interest.

Troopers’ work schedules and assignments were also incorporated into the report. The court said that the investigatory techniques exemption does not apply to this information because “there is no evidence other than the schedule itself which explains the assignments . . . or substantiates the significance of patrol assignments as investigatory technique[s] not otherwise known to the public.”

The civilian shooting victim’s driving history was included in the investigation report. The court found that a provision in Connecticut law preventing disclosure of motor vehicle license information prohibits only the dissemination of such information by the commissioner of the department of motor vehicles.

The report was prepared after a state trooper shot and wounded an armed civilian who pointed a gun at the trooper. In the report the trooper was commended for his performance.

After a request for a copy of the report by a reporter for The Hartford Courant was denied, the newspaper appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission, a state agency that reviews records denials. The Commission ordered the report to be disclosed and the Department of Public Safety appealed. (Kirschner v. Freedom of Information Commission; Media Counsel: Ralph Elliot, Hartford)