Gillum v. Chief, Police Department, Town of Newtown
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the General Assembly passed SB 1149, now Public Act 13-311, which exempts from disclosure certain audio recordings of conversations, presumably between first responders, in which the conditions of victims of homicide are described, but, it specifically does not shield from disclosure recordings of 911 calls from members of the public to law enforcement agencies. Jack Gillum and the Associated Press appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission, alleging that the Newtown police department and its chief violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with their records request, including for copies of police calls for service to, and 911 calls originating from, 36 Yogananda Street and Sandy Hook Elementary School for certain time periods. The state's attorney asserted that his office was in charge of the ongoing criminal investigation, directed the materials withheld and intervened in the case. The FOIC found that the Newtown respondents maintained records of three police calls for services to 36 Yogananda Street—one in 2003, 2006 and 2012—and over 100 calls to the school, including for animal nuisance, suspicious persons and burglar alarms. No exemption was claimed for these records. No requested police reports were maintained concerning the Lanzas. The only recordings of 911 calls maintained were those from the school concerning the shootings on Dec. 14, 2012. These recordings were submitted for in camera inspection. The recordings were found not exempt under Public Act 13-311 as they consisted of 911 calls from members of the public to law enforcement agencies. The respondents failed to prove other claimed exemptions, including that in C.G.S. §17a-101k, concerning reports of child abuse to the Department of Children and Families or C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3)(A), concerning the identity of informants or witnesses not otherwise known whose safety would be endangered or who would be subject to threat or intimidation if their identity were made known. The respondents did not show that a criminal investigation was "ongoing" for C.G.S. §1-210(b)(3)(C) to apply or that disclosure of the records would be prejudicial to any such action. The Newtown respondents violated C.G.S. §1-201(a) and §1-212(a) by failing to disclose the service call records and audio recordings and were ordered to provide a free copy to the complainants.