911 Addresses Ruled Public Records in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Office of Open Records

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A Pennsylvania appeals court held Wednesday that the destination addresses — or nearby cross streets — linked with 911 time response reports must be released under state public records laws. The ruling inYork County v. Pennsylvania Office of Open Records overturns a lower court decision that held that the state Office of Open Records was wrong to order the addresses released.

Ted Czech, a reporter for the York Daily Record, requested the time response reports in 2009. The reports list: the time a 911 call is received; the time the dispatcher contacts the police or fire department; and the time authorities arrive. The reports also list the destination addresses for the call. The logs are intended to measure response times to 911 calls. York County denied Czech’s request for the addresses in the response logs.

York County argued that the addresses were not part of the state legislature’s intent when it made the time response records specifically subject to the state’s Right-to-Know Law in a 2008 amendment. The county also said the amendment lacked a clear definition for “time response log.”

The court examined the legislative history of the amendment and found that there was nothing to suggest that addresses were exempt, despite the lack of a definition of a “time response log” and a floor statement from a member of the legislature who expressed the desire for addresses to be exempt. The amendment that was passed did not exempt the addresses from the time response logs and “what the General Assembly did is more important than what any one member said,” the court held.

 

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Newish Pa. FOI law no panacea…

A Pennsylvania state appeals court ruled Thursday that incident reports filed by state police officers are not public records, citing an exemption in the state’s Right to Know Law that protects from public disclosure “a record of an agency relating to or resulting in a criminal investigation.”

The court’s 6-1 ruling reversed an earlier decision by the state Office of Open Records that such documents should be made public.

In February of 2009, the Potter Leader-Enterprise of Coudersport, Pa., submitted an open records request seeking an incident report involving an altercation at a private residence. The state police initially denied the request.

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