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Newspaper wins access to city attorney's mug shot, police report

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WASHINGTON--A booking photograph and police report of the May 1997 arrest of a city attorney must be disclosed to The…

WASHINGTON–A booking photograph and police report of the May 1997 arrest of a city attorney must be disclosed to The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, a state appeals court in Spokane unanimously ruled in early June.

Because the city attorney pled guilty to assault after the newspaper’s suit was filed, the investigation was closed and the records should be made available under the state open records law, the court held.

“The police department has always been willing to release the records once the criminal prosecution was over,” the court said.

City attorney Milton Rowland was arrested in May 1997 after residents of a Spokane neighborhood reported seeing someone driving erratically. Rowland was accused of punching a police officer during the arrest.

In June, the newspaper requested the booking photograph and the incident report. After the Spokane Police Department denied both requests, the newspaper filed suit in Superior Court in Spokane. The lower court ordered disclosure in August 1997 and the police department appealed. (Cowles Publishing Co. v. Spokane Police Department, Media Counsel: Duane Swinton, Spokane)