Publication of Police Report After FOI
As part of a story I’m working on I’m FOIing a police report about a stolen item from a trade show (which itself blew up and became a widely publicized story).
I’ve filed an initial FOI request with the Department in question and they said that they cannot locate a record of such an event, and will search again if I can get an incident number from the company of which had the item stolen. \ \ I contacted the company and they said that publishing the police report was a no-go, and will subject me to civil/criminal liability.
I want your guys’ thoughts on the matter:
1) Aren’t police reports FOIable? The response I got from the department wasn’t a ‘we can’t release this’ it was more of a ‘we can’t find this’ (http://www.zrfmlaw.com/police-reports-held-to-be-foia-able-despite-open-investigation/)\ \ 2)If a police department publishes a report on MuckRock isn’t it then a public document?
I wonder if you could ask for all reports from the day or days in question. (Or maybe just all theft reports?) A pretty broad request for larceny police reports from Chicago [succeeded](https://www.muckrock.com/foi/chicago-169/chicago-illinois-larceny-from-mv-reports-27157/). Admittedly, the Chicago police might have a more sophisticated police report database and those weren’t full reports, just summaries.
I’m not sure about your second question.
My understanding has always been that police reports (like any other unsealed court record) is a public record. I request police reports in person all the time. The police department occassinally redacts information they feel is ‘private.’ However, I can usually get an even more detailed version of the document via the court clerk and it’s NEVER redacted. I often publish those documents on an activism website I run. I self-redact things like social security numbers and addresses, but that’s just me being professional and careful. I know of no law that prohibits the posting of police reports that were obtained legally. I’ve had critics hire lawyers to try and have me remove information and they’ve never even claimed the posting of the report was illegal.