Investigative files and the CPRA

Investigative files and the CPRA

Q: I am a newspaper reporter fleshing out a book about a child abduction from a few years back. The minor child was later found dead, and the perpetrator recently pleaded guilty and was sentenced for the crime in a California court. The case is closed.Now, the investigating police agency is refusing to answer my calls or put me in touch with key investigators who are now retired.My question: What investigative records are open records and how do I go about forcing their retrieval? I have a long wish-list, but a few items are listed below:

1. Officer narratives (reports) compiled during the investigation

2. Narratives of police interviews conducted during the investigation

3. video/audio tapes compiled during the investigation (some of media interviews with suspect while he was in jail)

4. Audio tapes compiled during secret observations of suspect (s) during investigation.

A: The records you describe below are exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act. Unfortunately, Government Code section 6254(f) permits the government to withhold the following: “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, 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, some of the records you are describing may have been introduced as evidence in the judicial proceedings relating to the prosecution (particularly the preliminary examination, if there was one).

If so, you can obtain copies of the records from the files of the criminal court. You have a right under the First Amendment and California law to obtain access to such court records. Alternatively, some of these records may have been turned over to the attorney for the defendant. While the defendant’s attorney cannot be compelled to provide copies of them, you may be able to persuade the attorney to provide them. You should also consider contacting the District Attorney who handled the case. Practice varies considerably, but some DA’s are willing to disclose investigative records after a case is closed.