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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mayor's Office: City intends to appeal ruling in T-P open records lawsuit

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 7:21 PM

In an emailed statement, Mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni says that the city will appeal Monday's ruling for The Times-Picayune by Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley. Medley ruled that the New Orleans Police Department violated state open records law by redacting victim information in an incident report that crime reporter Brendan McCarthy requested in April. He ordered NOPD to turn the full record over immediately, unless the city was planning to appeal. Here's the full statement:

This was a matter of protecting victims of crime. We have consistently provided more transparency and openness in City government and will do so within the bounds of the law. La. Rev. Stat. § 44:3A(4) provides that the initial report of an officer investigating a complaint is a public record, but the names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers of the victims of offenses are not required to be included in those reports. The Louisiana Constitution specifically provides that every person shall be secure against unreasonable invasions of privacy. The City intends to appeal the Civil District Court’s ruling in light of these constitutional and statutory protections.

Berni is correct. The law doesn't specifically say that victim information must be included in an incident report (which is considered a public record). Here's what it says (after the jump):

(b) The initial report shall set forth:

(i) A narrative description of the alleged offense, including appropriate details thereof as determined by the law enforcement agency.

(ii) The name and identification of each person charged with or arrested for the alleged offense.

(iii) The time and date of the alleged offense.

(iv) The location of the alleged offense.

(v) The property involved.

(vi) The vehicles involved.

(vii) The names of investigating officers.

(c) Nothing herein shall be construed to require the disclosure of information which would reveal undercover or intelligence operations.

(d) Nothing herein shall be construed to require the disclosure of information which would reveal the identity of the victim of a sexual offense

However, the newspaper's attorney, Lori Mince, successfully argued on Monday that the law should be interpreted broadly, meaning that simply because the information McCarthy requested isn't specifically mentioned in the law, that doesn't mean it's excepted from it. She further noted that the law does provide a specific exception for victim information, but it only applies to victims of sexual crimes. Mince also said that, in this case, the "narrative description of the alleged offense" (in bold above) includes the information that was redacted by the police department.

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