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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - Butler University Police to release records when requested "as if HB 1022 had become law"

Katie Goodrich, editor of The Butler Collegian, reports in a long story today that begins:

The Butler University Police Department adopted a policy to release some of their police records when requested.

No law mandated this action, but recent activity on the legal landscape of Indiana did.

The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed private university police departments do not have to release their records under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act in a case two weeks ago.

Gov. Mike Pence vetoed House Bill 1022 during the 2016 legislative session that would have released some private university police records.

Indiana law also does not consider BUPD a public agency.

Despite these facts, BUPD already released records to the Collegian for some articles this year, including the report about the theft from the bookstore in Atherton Union.

“There should be transparency in what we do,” Public Safety Director Ben Hunter said. “If you talk to other campus police chiefs, they would absolutely agree.”

After Butler’s General Counsel Claire Aigotti was told about the new policy, BUPD began operating as if the proposed bill became law.

“What I’ve told my team is that if a student rises to the level of an arrest, that’s a life choice they made,” Hunter said. “They can’t be disappointed if that is a public record. So, we are moving forward like the bill passed.”

House Bill 1022 defined arrest records and other criminal offenses at private universities as public records, meaning BUPD and other private university police departments would have to release those records under Indiana law, but it did not apply to cases handled within the university.

The bill was crafted to not include records protected under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly called FERPA. This federal law seals student information, such as grades, health records, discipline files or financial information.

Later in the story:
Hunter and colleagues from the Independent Colleges of Indiana, a nonprofit organization for the 31 private colleges in the state, worked to help pass this bill. Only one legislator voted against the bill, but it could not be law because of Pence’s veto.

This all happened while private university police departments gained headlines from the ESPN v. University of Notre Dame appeal court case, in which an ESPN reporter sued for access to Notre Dame police reports about possible criminal activity of football players.

Pence’s veto came a week after the Court of Appeals unanimously decided on Notre Dame’s side.

“Limiting access to police records in a situation where private university police departments perform a government function is a disservice to the public and an unnecessary barrier to transparency,” Pence said in a news release.

ILB: From a SB Tribune story at the time:
In a statement explaining his veto, Pence said he has "long believed in the public’s right to know and a free and independent press."

"Limiting access to police records in a situation where private university police departments perform a government function is a disservice to the public and an unnecessary barrier to transparency," the statement said.

Pence had hinted at his decision last week, when he said his "strong bias for the public's right to know" would weigh heavily in his decision on whether to veto the bill. * * *

In the ESPN-Notre Dame court battle, the appeals court ruled that the university's police department is a public agency and subject to open records laws. The South Bend Tribune filed a brief in support of ESPN in the court case, and urged Pence in an editorial last week to veto HB 1022. * * *

The bill was sponsored by State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend. It was pushed by the state's private colleges and would have exempted them from more stringent crime reporting requirements faced by other police agencies in Indiana, including those on public university campuses.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 7, 2016 07:50 AM
Posted to Indiana Government