Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Different disclosure rules when law enforcement officers are charged with an offense?

On December 19, 2014, I blogged (here) about a Mercer County Corrections officer who was charged with harassment for "offensively touching" a coworker.  After noting that Mercer County redacted the officer's address and date of birth from the summons, I submitted another Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request seeking that information.

In my subsequent OPRA request which, along with the County's denial is on-line here, I pointed out that police routinely disclose the home addresses of arrestees.  As evidence, I included a press release issued by the Bridgeton Police Department (here) showing the home addresses of two arrestees.  Even though the corrections officer was issued a summons instead of being arrested, it seems to me that the decision to disclose or suppress the home address of a criminal defendant should not turn on the defendant's occupation.

As for the date of birth, while I have no need for the month and the day the officer was born, knowing the year of his birth would provide readers with the defendant's age.  While allegedly saying "while you're down there . . ." to a stooping, female co-worker and then kissing her on the neck is always wrong, people might feel that it is a little less creepy if done by a 25-year-old as opposed by a 55-year-old.  Also, I have received court records in the past where the defendants' dates of birth are disclosed, so why should this case be different?

In his December 22, 2014 response Deputy County Counsel Paul R. Adezio denied my request.  He noted that the officer's address needs to be redacted "for safety considerations" because "[t]he individual in question is a County corrections officer, and involved in law enforcement."  He also denied the date of birth because it is "personnel related."  Adezio did not address my request that he "please at least consider more narrowly redacting the address and date of birth."

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