James v. Chief, Police Department, City of Waterbury
Signed witness statements were permissibly exempt from disclosure under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3) as records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime. Latone James, an inmate, appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Police Department of the City of Waterbury and its chief violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his request for records concerning a 1995 murder. The FOIC found that the police respondents retained approximately 36 pages of responsive records consisting of witness statements and forwarded 65 pages, unredacted, to the Department of Correction's freedom of information administrator. The Department of Correction redacted certain names, addresses and phone number from the records provided to James and withheld approximately five pages consisting of a photograph lineup and fingerprints. The Department of Correction and its administrator were added as respondents to this case. At the hearing, the complainant contested the withholding of the witness statements and claimed pages were missing from the records provided. The FOIC found that the police respondents conducted a diligent search for the records but certain pages were missing. Two pages, inadvertently withheld, were to be disclosed. The FOIC reviewed the withheld witness statements in camera and found that they consisted of records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime within the meaning of C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3)(B). The signed witness statements were found permissibly exempt from disclosure under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3)(B). The police respondents did not violate C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a) as claimed. The complainant argued that he should be entitled to copies of the photographic lineup and fingerprints, particularly because he previously had the photographs. Testimony indicated, however, that their disclosure may result in a prison safety risk because the records could be used for retaliatory or intimidation purposes. This explanation did not appear pretextual or irrational. The records were found permissibly exempt under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(18). The complaint was dismissed.