|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 21, 1999
Ms. Meredith Ladd
Dear Ms. Ladd:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 130613.
The City of College Station (the "city") received a request for a specified incident report and for complaints filed against named police officers. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. You also assert that a portion of the information is made confidential by section 58.007 of the Family Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This provision encompasses information made confidential by statute. You contend that a portion of the responsive information is made confidential by section 58.007 of the Family Code. Law enforcement records and files concerning criminal conduct of a child that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 is prohibited by that statute. "Child" in this context is defined by Family Code section 51.02(2) as "a person who is ten years of age or older and under 17 years of age." You state, and the documents show, that a subject of the submitted incident reports was seventeen years old at the time of the incident. Thus, section 58.007 of the Family Code does not apply to the records of this individual.
You relate that no charges were filed in the case involving the seventeen year old suspect; that the case has been cleared; that it did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication; and that this information is excepted from disclosure by section 552.108(a)(2) of the Government Code. This section excepts information in criminal investigations that concluded, as here, in a result other than conviction or deferred adjudication. However, section 552.108 does not except "basic information" about an arrest of a crime. Gov't Code § 552.108(c). We believe "basic information" refers to the "front page" information held to be public in Houston Chronicle Publishing Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App. --Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976). Open Records Decision No. 216 (1978). Thus, "front page" information must be released even if it is not actually located on the front page of a report. Other than the "front page" information, the information about this case may be withheld under section 552.108(a)(2) of the Government Code.
You also argue that section 552.108 excepts the investigations into allegations of the police officers misconduct. Section 552.108(b) excepts internal records or notations of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution. As regards the subject complaints made against police officers, you do not indicate what, if any, crime is being investigated. Further, the submitted information does not, on its face, suggest any criminal activity. The investigations are into "Improper procedure/Discourtesy," rather than into allegations of criminal conduct. Investigations into non-criminal matters are not excepted from disclosure by Government Code section 552.108. Morales v. Ellen, 840 S.W.2d 519, 526 (Tex. App.--El Paso 1992, writ denied) (predecessor statute to section 552.108 not applicable were no criminal investigation resulted). The compliant investigations must therefore be released.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
Michael Jay Burns
Ref: ID# 130613
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. John Norton
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US