Notes on Public Records for Law Enforcement (Part 1)

The Louisiana Public Records Law insures that public records are available for inspection by the public.  This has an impact on law enforcement in a number of ways.  Therefore, it is important for law enforcement personnel to be familiar with the Louisiana Public Records Law.

A “Public Body” means “any branch, department, agency, board, commission, district, governing authority, political subdivision, or any committee, subcommittee, advisory board, or task force thereof, any other instrumentality of state, parish, or municipal government, including a public or quasi-public nonprofit corporation designated as an entity to perform a governmental or proprietary function, or an affiliate of a housing authority.”

For the purpose of law enforcement personnel, your agency is a public body within the definition.

A public record is anything maintained by a public body which is not exempted from disclosure by another law.

The “custodian” of these records is the head of the public body having custody and control of these records.  For the New Orleans Police Department, the Superintendent of Police is the custodian of records.  For the Kenner Police Department, it is the Chief of Police, and for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, it is the Sheriff.  These custodians often appoint someone to act in there capacity as custodian.  In New Orleans, this is normally a function of the Records and Identification Division.

Certain law enforcement records are exempt from disclosure.

  • Records pertaining to “pending criminal litigation” are exempt from disclosure.
  • Records pertaining to confidential informants or which contain information that could identify the source of confidential information are exempt from disclosure.
  • Records containing security procedures, investigative training information or aids, investigative techniques, investigative technical equipment or instructions in the use thereof, criminal intelligence information pertaining to terrorist-related activity, or threat or vulnerability assessments collected or obtained in the prevention of terrorist-related activity, including but not limited to physical security information, proprietary information, operational plans, and the analysis of such information, or internal security information are exempt from disclosure.
  • Records of the arrest of a person until a conviction or acceptance of a plea of guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction are exempt from disclosure.  EXCEPT that ALL initial incident reports are ALWAYS public record.
  • Information which would reveal undercover or intelligence operations are exempt from disclosure.
  • The identity of the victim of a sexual offense is exempt from disclosure.
  • Records containing the identity of an undercover police officer or records which would identify an undercover police officer are exempt from disclosure.
  • Records concerning juvenile status offenders are exempt from disclosure.

In addition, LSA 40:2532 forbids disclosure of a law enforcement officer’s home address, photograph, or other confidential information (SSN, DOB, etc.).

Stay tuned for Part 2.

3 thoughts on “Notes on Public Records for Law Enforcement (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Notes of Public Records for Law Enforcement (Part 2) | Signal 108

  2. Donovan,

    Something else you might want to touch on is social media (Facebook, Twitter and the like). That seems to be the most recent avenue of attack on police officers. Or did I jump the gun and hit Part 3?

  3. Facebook, twitter, and other social media are another problem all together. In short, law enforcement officers would be well served to remember that they have a limited First Amendment right compared to the average U.S. citizen…

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