Alabama Attorney general says police incident reports open to public

Dothan Eagle
Alabama Attorney general says police incident reports open to public
Dothan Eagle
Attorney General Bill Pryor came down on the side of Alabama’s news media in deciding that the front page of a police incident report is a public information and available for anyone to read
In an advisory opinion, the attorney general said a law enacted last year concerning the privacy of police investigative reports “does not alter
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the long-standing and well-established principle that the information contained on the front of the Alabama Uniform Incident-Offense Report should be available to the public for inspection”
“This opinion is going to be a tremendous help in allowing us to have uniform access to information,” said Dennis Bailey, attorney for the Alabama Press Association
The front page of the Uniform Incident-Offense Report, which is used by police
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agencies statewide, lists what kind of offense occurred, where it happened, who the victim was, who reported it and what kind of weapon was used
It’s the kind of basic information that print and broadcast
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reporters use for crime stories
In 1998, the Legislature passed a law saying that police investigative materials are not public record
The law was in response to attorneys trying to get investigate materials, such as witnesses’ statements, to use in civil suits
Some law enforcement officials, particularly in rural areas, used the new law to deny reporters access to incident reports, Bailey said
But the attorney general said the front page of the
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incident report “has never been construed as being privileged” and the 1998 law didn’t change that
The attorney general can issue advisory opinions when public officials seek advice about state laws
State Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle, said he sought the advisory opinion on the police incident reports at the request of The Decatur Daily which had trouble getting access in Morgan County
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The police incident report is distributed to police agencies by the state’s Criminal Justice Information Center
Since 1990, the center has published a handbook telling police the front page of the incident report “is generally considered public information”
Center spokeswoman Carol Roberts said the center didn’t change its advice in the handbook after enactment of the 1998 law on the privacy of investigative records


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