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Community activist tells of terrifying night
Original post made
on Apr 26, 2011
A Saturday drive for Chinese takeout turned into a terrifying night in Menlo Park, said Vicki Smothers.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 10:53 AM
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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm
Let's actually look at the applicable code section, which is Government Code 6254. It says a public agency must release records unless there is a certain exemption. Even then, they agency can release them, they just don't have to. It is quoted below.
For these police records, the victim Vicki Smothers has an absolute right to the 911 tape since it contains her own statements ("However, state and local law enforcement agencies shall disclose …statements of the parties involved in the incident…to the victims of an incident) UNLESS:
1. The disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the
investigation - this clearly cannot be the case, since releasing Ms. Smothers' own 911 statement to her could endanger no one.
2. Disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation.
There is other language in the statute that makes clear these exceptions must be construed narrowly, so the Menlo Park police would have to come up with a good reason why disclosing her own statement to her would endanger the investigation (if it is still ongoing). The city attorney stating it's a "policy" simply doesn't cut it.
Ms. Smothers can hire an attorney to sue Menlo Park under the Public Records Act. The court will order disclosure and order payment of her attorney's fees for bringing the motion. There is no basis for Menlo Park to withhold the tape to her.
For those of her who are defending the police sergeant and trying to cast aspersions on Ms. Smothers, it seems to me that Menlo Park has something they feel they need to hide by not releasing the tape. It probably would not reflect well on their own personnel involved. Otherwise why not just OBEY THE LAW and release it?
6254. Except as provided in Sections 6254.7 and 6254.13, nothing in
this chapter shall be construed to require disclosure of records
that are any of the following:
(f) Records of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or
records of intelligence information or security procedures of, the
office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, the
California Emergency Management Agency, and any state or local police
agency, or any investigatory or security files compiled by any other
state or local police agency, or any investigatory or security files
compiled by any other state or local agency for correctional, law
enforcement, or licensing purposes. However, state and local law
enforcement agencies shall disclose the names and addresses of
persons involved in, or witnesses other than confidential informants
to, the incident, the description of any property involved, the date,
time, and location of the incident, all diagrams, statements of the
parties involved in the incident, the statements of all witnesses,
other than confidential informants, to the victims of an incident, or
an authorized representative thereof, an insurance carrier against
which a claim has been or might be made, and any person suffering
bodily injury or property damage or loss, as the result of the
incident caused by arson, burglary, fire, explosion, larceny,
robbery, carjacking, vandalism, vehicle theft, or a crime as defined
by subdivision (b) of Section 13951, unless the disclosure would
endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the
investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful
completion of the investigation or a related investigation. However,
nothing in this division shall require the disclosure of that portion
of those investigative files that reflects the analysis or
conclusions of the investigating officer.
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