Vermont Supreme Court: Police Dispatch Records Are Public

Seems a bit amazing that it took a state’s high court to clear this little bit of FOI law up, but hey, that’s why litigation is so important…

Police dispatch logs are public records that must be disclosed except in limited circumstances, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday in overturning a lower-court decision that said those records are always secret.

The court ruled unanimously in favor of Stephen Bain, who had sought the records from Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark in a case that began in 2008. Bain, convicted of being a habitual offender, represented himself, according to the justices’ opinion, written by Associate Justice Denise Johnson.

A lower-court judge determined the dispatch logs fell within one of the many exceptions to Vermont’s Public Records Act — in this instance, the provision that allowed the withholding of “records dealing with the detection and investigation of crime.”

” We cannot assume, consistent with the purpose of the PRA, that simply because the records at issue were generated by a law enforcement agency, they necessarily are records ‘dealing with the detection and investigation of crime,’ ” Johnson wrote for the high court. “To so hold would allow for a ‘potentially limitless’ exemption.”