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Report: Connecticut Police Flouting Records Laws

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Some police officials in Connecticut refused to release documents they’re required to disclose under state law when asked by reporters who visited all the police departments in the state, three newspapers reported in Thursday editions.

Reporters with the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen visited all 92 municipal police departments and 11 state police troops to check compliance with Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act. The newspapers’ report comes during Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative promoting open government.

New Haven police failed to provide any required information, including the arrest log, when asked by a reporter.

“You’ll never get blotter from us. We are just too damn busy,” Officer David Hartman, a police department spokesman, told the reporter. “It is not public information; these are arrests, not convictions.”

Along with New Haven, police in West Haven, Branford, Middlebury, Westport and Troop G state police in Bridgeport failed to provide basic information on arrests as required by the FOI law, the newspapers reported.

The newspapers gave about a quarter of police departments grades in the A range for their FOI compliance and 59 percent of departments a B, while six departments got an F. South Windsor police got the only perfect A grade, while all others receiving top grades got A minuses.

Basic arrest information is required to be released under state law, including the names and addresses of people arrested, the charges and the time and place of arrest. There are exemptions, including the names of juveniles, sexual assault victims and informants.

It’s vital that police arrest records be available to the public, said Colleen Murphy, executive director and general counsel of the state Freedom of Information Commission.

“We pride ourselves that there are no secret arrests in this country,” she said.

Hartman, who regularly issues news releases on arrests, also told the reporter in rejecting the request, “Whether you are entitled to it, I don’t know. In my entire time here, no reporter or news agency has ever requested an arrest log. It is fishing for stuff. … You are not going to generally fish through our arrest logs, because there are too many situations where that information is not for the public to know. We keep secrets here.”

He cited concerns about the logs revealing information on juveniles and sexual assault victims.

The city’s director of communications, Laurence Grotheer, said in a statement that the city complies with the FOI law.

In contrast, South Windsor and West Hartford police gave reporters prompt access to their arrest logs and in-depth arrest reports.

South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed said he was glad his department got the only perfect score. He said some departments feel pressure from prosecutors not to release information.

Westport Police Chief Dale Call said he was disappointed that a reporter couldn’t get basic arrest information at his department and said “there is absolutely no excuse.”

A state police spokesman, Lt. J. Paul Vance, said he couldn’t believe that a reporter got no information at the Bridgeport barracks.

“That’s impossible,” he said. “Arrest logs and press releases are available to anyone in the lobby.”

In a subsequent email, Vance said, “We provide press releases on ALL arrests to the public. The arrest logs contain other information that is not public record … so to ask for the press releases would be the proper way to gain access to ALL arrest and accident details.”

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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