Unintended Consequences in Utah?

A nice look at the collateral damage likely to occur as a result of HB477:

While much of the focus of the controversial HB477 has been on how it might affect the public’s access to state lawmakers, the new law may also potentially affect thousand of residents in a much more direct way.

Local police departments typically receive hundreds and even thousands of requests for reports and records each year through the Government Records Access and Management Act. But the majority of those requests do not come from the media.

“A very small percentage,” Rick Fletcher, records coordinator for the Unified Police Department, said of the number of GRAMA requests he receives from the media versus the requests that come from the public.

Whether HB477 will ultimately affect both the media and the public’s access to police records isn’t completely clear. Attorney Jeffrey Hunt, an expert on GRAMA, said the new law — which goes into effect July 1 — does not create any new specific exceptions for law enforcement information.

“However, it would greatly restrict the public’s access to crime information. Any text messages, instant messages or similar electronic records created by law enforcement officers would be totally off limits to the public, even if those records concerned criminal reports, incidents or other public matters,” he said. “This would essentially create an entire category of electronic law enforcement records that would be secret and off limits to the public.”

It begs the question: did anyone who voted for this disaster stop for a nanosecond to consider its scope?


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