Attorney General Bill Pryor clears up open records issue

Attorney General Bill Pryor clears up open records issuePrescience

Attorney General Bill Pryor clears up open records issue

ABOUT THIS TIME last year, as The Dothan Eagle was investigating a string of rapes that had been taking place in the Napier Field Road area, the management of this newspaper discovered it did not see eye to eye with the Dothan Police Department with regard to access to crime reports

The newspaper’s position was that such reports were considered part of the public record, and that reporters should be allowed to review the documents each day

The police maintained the reports were not public record, but investigatory reports, and said access to some victim information in the reports would be potentially damaging to victims who had already suffered enough

Eagle Editor Ronnie Agnew and Dothan Police Chief John White eventually had a meeting of the minds, and although Chief White continued to maintain his position that the documents were exempt from open records laws – particularly the narrative portion on page two – he acquiesced and allowed reporters access to the front page of the Uniform Incident Offense Report

That agreement was prescient

In an opinion issued last week in response to similar challenges faced by The Decatur Daily, Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor affirmed that Agnew and White reached an appropriate agreement

Pryor advised that the front page of Uniform Incident Offense reports are open records that are not covered by a law passed by the Alabama Legislature last year concerning privacy of police investigatory reports

The opinion is a victory for Alabamians who deserve to know what’s going on in their communities, and should go a long way in opening access for news organizations throughout the state

Here at home we remain encouraged that a difference of opinion on a matter such as this could be worked through without resorting to opinions from the AG’s office

This news reaffirms those negotiations took the proper course

Wednesday October 20 1999

The Dothan Eagle 4-A
Alabama Attorney general says police incident reports open to public
Alabama court rulings, attorney general’s opinions and state law say the book containing prisoners received into county jails is open to the public
Offense and incident reports are open, except portions that would compromise a criminal investigation, harm innocent people, or infringe on the constitutional rights of the accused


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