COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY v. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al., SC 19047
Judicial District of New Britain
Freedom of Information; Whether Police Incident Report Subject to Disclosure; Whether, During Pendency of a Criminal Prosecution, Disclosure by Police of Press Release Concerning Criminal Incident Satisfied Disclosure Requirements of §§ 1-215 and 1-210. In 2008, the complainants, the New Haven Register and one of its reporters, made a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the police report on an incident that had occurred in Derby three days before. The request concerned the arrest of an individual charged with assault of an elderly person and attempt to commit murder, and the police report included, among other things, signed witness statements, narrative reports and medical logs relating to the incident. The department of public safety (department) responded that the report was exempt from disclosure under § 1-215, and it instead provided the complainants with a copy of its official press release pertaining to the incident. The press release contained the accused's name, address and birthdate; the date, time and location of the incident; the charges filed against the accused; and a two paragraph narrative that included additional information about the arrest. The complainants appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC), which ruled that, while the department provided the “record of the arrest” within the meaning of § 1-215, that statute does not exempt records from disclosure but rather mandates that, at a minimum, certain arrest records must be disclosed. The FOIC directed that, where the police seek to withhold other records not mandated to be disclosed under § 1-215, they must prove that some General Statutes § 1-210 (b) (3) exemption from disclosure applies to those records. The department appealed to the trial court, which sustained the appeal, ruling that the department was not obligated to make the full or redacted police report available and that it complied with the FOIA by providing the information that § 1-215 dictates be disclosed. The FOIC appealed and the Appellate Court (137 Conn. App. 307) affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The court found that § 1-215 exclusively regulates the disclosure of records of law enforcement agencies and that the plain language of that statute requires only the disclosure of the information set forth in subsection (b) (1) and an additional piece of information contained in subsection (b) (2). The court ruled that the news release disclosed by the department here met the requirements of the statute. The Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that, during a pending prosecution, the FOIA requires only the disclosure of the police blotter information in § 1-215 (b) (1) and an additional piece of information contained in § 1-215 (b) (2).