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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kentucky attorney general rules in favor of college newspaper

Another college newspaper fights against heavily redacted police reports. The attorney general ruled that "Eastern Kentucky University improperly relied on KRS 61.878(1)(a) in redacting the address of persons whose names appeared on incident reports." However, since The Progress receives its police reports directly from the police department as a courtesy, officers can still black out addresses and other information they deem necessary. The staff is working with the university counsel in hopes to begin receiving uncensored reports without having to file -- and wait -- for a formal request.

Near the end of last semester, the Progress staff got fed up with vast quantities of black ink clouding the police reports we received from the Eastern police department every week. The reports were so heavily redacted we couldn't list names in the police beat without running the risk of libeling someone.

Remedying the situation was tricky because the Progress wasn't formally requesting the reports from the university. Eastern police gave us the reports we used each week as a courtesy, which meant they could remove whatever information they desired before giving them to us. And since formal requests could take weeks to process, our only option was to take the readily available censored reports.

We had to figure out how to end the unnecessary redactions without delaying information to our readers.

In order to determine what the police department was redacting that couldn't be redacted when a formal request was made, we sent a pair of "Freedom Of Information Act" requests to the university, asking for copies of about a week's worth of police reports. When we got these reports, we were surprised to see just as much black ink on the formally requested reports as on the freebies we got from the police department. On some reports, even more information was redacted on the formally requested version.

More here.

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