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Monday, June 1, 2015

Portsmouth Police Redact Police Report

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.

“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.

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.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that incident and offense reports, and underlying statements and interviews, are not confidential investigatory records because they initiate an investigation and are not part of an investigation itself. The same applies to 911 call recordings.

And, such police reports must be released immediately upon request, the court says. (And, even drafts of documents, including police incident reports, are public records if they have been shared between at least two people.)

Further, no information -- including the names of victims, uncharged suspects and juveniles (except victims of child abuse) -- can be redacted with the exception of Social Security numbers and information provided by a children services agency.

(Randy Ludlow. "Police duck the law on release of incident reports.
The Columbus Dispatch. November 27, 2013) 
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