• Freedom of Information Commission
  • FIC 2013-045
  • Dec 18 2013 (Date Decided)
  • Freedom of Information Commission

The Department of Correction’s decision to withhold, as a matter of policy, a cassette recording of police dispatch calls without listening to the tape, because it did not believe that it should devote the time necessary to review the recording, was inconsistent with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. Inmate Jose Cosme appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Hartford Police Department and its chief violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide him with requested records concerning his convictions. The FOIC dismissed the complaint as to the Hartford Police respondents, after finding that they delivered 318 pages of responsive records to the Department of Correction. The commissioner and Department of Correction were added as respondents. The department, after reviewing the records, withheld approximately 75 pages and a cassette of Hartford Police dispatch calls. The remaining records were forwarded to the complainant. The respondents submitted the withheld records for in camera inspection, except for the cassette, asserting an inability to copy it. The department claimed the withheld records were exempt from disclosure as posing a safety risk in a correctional institution under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(18). The department did not listen to the cassette but withheld it as a matter of policy, claiming that any portion might contain exempt information, and it would be unreasonable to listen to every portion of the recording. The FOIC understood the department’s need to conserve limited resources. Nevertheless, its policy of withholding recordings because it does not believe it should devote the time necessary to review them was inconsistent with the FOIA’s requirements. The department did not provide evidence that review of the recording was more onerous than reviewing criminal records or that it had reason to believe the recording contained exempt information. The FOIC concluded that the department violated the FOIA by refusing to disclose the cassette. The department also violated the FOIA by withholding crime scene photographs and contraband and evidence tags. No evidence was offered to support the claimed exemptions for these items. Signed witness statements, found exempt under C.G. S. §1-210(b)(3)(C), were properly withheld. The department was ordered to disclose the cassette, photographs and tags.

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