Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission
The plain language of C.G.S. §1-215 of the Freedom of Information Act requires only the disclosure of the police blotter information of C.G.S. §1-215(b)(1), specifically, the name and address of the accused, the date, time and place of the arrest and offense charged, and one additional piece of information contained in C.G.S. §1-215(b)(2), namely, either the arrest report, incident report or a news release or other similar report. The complainants, the New Haven Register, and reporter, Michelle Sullo, appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Department of Public Safety failed to provide them with access to a certain police report. The department claimed that the report was exempt from disclosure pursuant to C.G.S. §1-215, but, disclosed a press release containing police blotter information and a two paragraph narrative with additional information about the arrest charging Toai Nguyen with assault of an elderly person and attempt to commit murder. The FOIC concluded that C.G.S. §1-215 does not exempt records from public disclosure but mandates that, at a minimum, certain arrest records must be disclosed. The commission ordered further records disclosed. The department appealed to the trial court which sustained the appeal concluding that the department satisfied the requirements of the act and was not obligated to make a full or redacted police report available. The FOIC appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Following the Connecticut Supreme Court's 1993 decision in Gifford v. Freedom of Information Commission, regarding the disclosure of a police report while the criminal prosecution remains pending, the legislature, in P.A. 94-246, amended C.G.S. §1-20b, C.G.S. §1-215, effectively overruling parts of Gifford's holding. Much of Giffordincluding its conclusion that C.G.S. §1-215 exclusively regulates the disclosure of records of law enforcement agenciesremains binding. The 1994 amendment added a requirement that police blotter information be made publicly available at the time of the arrest and may not be redacted under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3). C.G.S. §1-215(b)(2) was added which requires law enforcement agencies also to make either the arrest report, incident report, a news release or other similar report of the arrest available to the public. This additional information may be exempted or redacted in accordance with C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3). Here, the department's news release, containing the police blotter information and additional information in two paragraphs, met the requirements of the act.