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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Are daily police logs now being made available to the public adequate under public access law?"

The heading to today's post is the same as the heading to this March 4, 2012 ILB post. It quoted a no longer available 2012 South Bend Tribune story that began:

The daily police logs two St. Joseph County departments provide to the public appear to be falling short of what is required by Indiana's Public Access Laws.

The Tribune recently asked the state’s public access counselor for an advisory opinion about the thoroughness of the police logs — reports of crimes and other incidents — provided to the public and the media by three local departments: South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County.

In an advisory opinion, Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage said last week that two of the departments, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County, are omitting certain required details from their logs. [ILB: The SBT provides samples of the three logs for comparing.]

Police agencies are required by law to provide a daily log or record that lists suspected crimes, accidents, or complaints, as well as a number of other details.

The logs or information are to be updated every 24 hours from the time of the alleged crime or incident and made available to the public and media representatives to examine and copy.

Tribune reporters and other local journalists go through the three departments’ police logs daily to report on public safety in the county. Police briefs and other write-ups regarding police incidents that appear in print and online often come from cases pulled from the log.

Apparently issues continue. On May 5, 2016, Public Access Counselor Luke Britt issued 16-INF-09; Police Logs to Margaret Fosmoe, South Bend Tribune. Some quotes:
You seek a determination as to what additional information is required for the daily logs created by law enforcement in response to various kinds of calls. You specifically question whether the names of victims and other factual circumstances must be included in the log and if a member of the public is interested in the incident, must that person ask for each piece of required information or should it be given all at once. * * *

For daily logs, Ind. Code § 5-14-3-5(c) contemplates disclosure that is enough to explain the substance of the incident, but must give the reader an idea of what happened. Ind. Code 5-14-3-4(b)(1) provides discretionary release of records to protect the integrity of the investigation. Reading these two provisions together, a daily log should contain enough information to provide the public information about the general substance of the incident, but not so much as to impair law enforcement’s ability to investigate. The information disclosed would be situation-specific, but the APRA generally contemplates as much information as possible.

For example, just the words “traffic stop in 36000 block of Gumwood Road” would not be enough. There would need to be more details regarding the factual circumstances of the case. There may or may not be a victim, but there would be a reason for the stop, i.e. speeding, broken taillight, erratic driving, etc.

This information must be created within 24-hours and placed on some kind of log or report. When the public asks for this ‘log’, law enforcement should give the entire list of required details and not a piecemeal release of information bit-by-bit, so the requestor is continually fishing for descriptions.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 18, 2016 09:15 AM
Posted to Indiana Government