Columbus lawyer Mark Weaver, a media-law expert who represents local governments and educates police on their public-records responsibilities, believes state law and court rulings are clear.
Police incident and offense reports must be released immediately and without redactions.
Yet, Dispatch reporters, and presumably the public, continue to encounter police agencies that don’t know the law — or don’t care what it says.
After battling nine days to obtain an incident report from one area police department, The Dispatch received it today. Information, such as the names of juveniles and other details, was blacked-out. Information was both delayed and denied.
Police reasons for not immediately releasing the report included that the investigation was ongoing, the report had not been approved (although the officer’s detailed narrative is marked as approved the same day the incident occurred) and a desire to be “sensitive” to the victim’s family. Police said they faced no legal deadline to turn over the report.
“It’s well settled by the courts that police departments should not redact information from an initial incident report using the confidential law enforcement investigation exception,” said Weaver.