Always a Bad Idea: Closing 911 Records

Looks like the Bad Exemption That Won’t Die has popped up again, this time in Tennessee:

Senate Bill 1665 sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville and House Bill 1539 sponsored by Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna would short circuit public access to these important records. Sponsors of the bills argue that it is intended to protect the privacy of 911 callers. We would counter with: What about the right of the public to know what its publicly paid for government services are doing?

 

 

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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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