Q&A: Withholding fire department records


From the News-Sentinal:

Q: Can a city deny a request for information surrounding under Indiana Code 5-14-3-4(b) because of an ongoing investigations. The city cited this statute and said:  Once information has been completed and reviewed by the law department, we will ensure you are contacted so that you may obtain a copy of the reports.

A: If the fire department is claiming it is a law enforcement agency to avail itself of IC 5-14-3-4(b)(1), then it also must fall under the provisions of IC 5-14-3-5(c), which requires they maintain a daily log or record that lists suspected crimes, accidents or complaints and the following information shall be made available for inspection and copying not later than 24 hours after the incident is reported:

(1) The time, substance, and location of all complaints or requests for assistance received by the agency.

(2) The time and nature of the agency’s response to all complaints or requests for assistance.

(3) If the incident involves an alleged crime or infraction:

(A) the time, date and location of the occurrence;

(B) the name and age of any victim [unless it’s a sex crime];

(C) the factual circumstances surrounding the incident;

(D) a general description of any injuries, property, or weapons involved.”

They can protect the “incident report” as an investigatory record, but they must make the above information available within 24 hours of the call for help.

Bring that to their attention so they can have the record prepared in time to meet their 24-hour obligation.

There’s also the question as to whether they can claim the investigatory record exception as a law enforcement agency. Below is definition of a law enforcement officer and I don’t see where the fire department would fit uinless its arson investigator is a deputy of (a)(1).

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.