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Are police investigative records disclosable?

Are police investigative records disclosable?

(Public Records Act) Permanent link

As always, the law on these issues depends on the facts at hand. Police investigative records are presumptively disclosable if a defendant has been arrested and the case been referred to a prosecutor for a charging decision.  Cowles Publ’g Co. v. Spokane Police Dep’t, 139 Wn.2d 472, 479 (1999).  However, where matters have been referred to prosecution and a law enforcement agency asserts that nondisclosure is necessary for effective law enforcement, the trial court should conduct an in camera review and make a determination on a case-by-case basis, of whether nondisclosure is essential to effective law enforcement.  Id. at 480.

In a recent case, Koenig v. Pierce County, the Division I Court of Appeals upheld a prosecutor’s decision to withhold investigative documents under the attorney work product privilege, because the documents were gathered by the prosecutor in anticipation of litigation and there was no showing that the documents met the exception to the privilege.  So in case of an investigative police report, the requirement to disclose may depend on to whom the request was directed.

Posted by Open Government Ombudsman at 07/24/2009 02:07:11 PM 


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