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Lawmaker Pre-empts Task Force To Make His Own Recommendations

by Hugh McQuaid | Nov 25, 2013 1:00pm
(3) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Civil Liberties, FOIA, Law Enforcement, Legal, Public Safety, Newtown

Hugh McQuaid file photo A lawmaker who chairs a panel weighing victim privacy against public disclosure law made his own recommendations Friday, including a proposal restricting public access to audio of the of 911 calls.

The task force was created under a hastily-passed law intended to prevent the disclosure of crime scene photographs and certain audio recordings collected by police following the Sandy Hook shooting and other homicides. But the split panel has had difficulty reaching consensus on any issue.

Rep. Angel Arce, one of two chairmen on the task force, has been a vocal advocate of reducing access to law enforcement records in an effort to protect the privacy of victims. Arce’s father died after a hit-and-run accident in Hartford. Although the perpetrator was caught after Hartford police released video footage of the incident, Arce said his family has been traumatized from seeing the video broadcast on television.

Arce’s recommendations come as the task force nears its January deadline without consensus on any of the controversial issues it has been asked to consider. In a statement, he said his recommendations are “an attempt to jump-start a productive conversation.”

Among the recommendations is a proposal for restricting access to recordings of 911 calls to written transcripts unless there is “an overriding public interest in disclosure.” Arce’s proposal would permit a member of the public to listen to the calls in person. In the event that 911 tapes are ordered released based on evidence of negligence by a government official, Arce’s proposal calls for at least 24 hours notice to the person who made the call.

“Most of us agree that, in the Internet era, the world is a much different place than it was nearly 40 years ago when our state adopted the FOI law. I am certain that we have room for improvement,” Arce said in a statement.

Not everyone on the task force agrees. James Smith, a task force member and president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, has suggested that the group’s membership is weighted too heavily in favor of reducing public access to information.

Smith said the state should be proud of its public disclosure law and dismissed the notion that it should be curbed based on the pervasiveness of the Internet.

“I say we should not let technical advances, and we will always have them, erode our basic freedoms and the concept of knowing what the government is doing,” he said in an email.

The task force, which has yet to reach a consensus on any recommendation, will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Room 1C of the Legislative Office Building.

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(3) Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | November 25, 2013  2:17pm

That the chairman of the government suppression task force releases his own recommendations without the endorsement of the task force is a failure of leadership. Perhaps he is having trouble reaching consensus because he is unwilling to bend even though his family was helped by the release of the video which by the way, is hardly horrendous.

Rep. Arce’s views of the public’s right to know and his understanding of the internet is remarkably under-developed and juvenile. I’m having a hard time understanding why such a person is even on this committee let alone leading it. The internet and the learning it provides is not the problem. The real enemy are those who have agendas to subvert and prostitute the public’s right to know what the government is doing and its cost. The current laws are nothing of which to be proud. We should be advancing public information, not working day and night to suppress it.

posted by: Matt from CT | November 25, 2013  4:22pm

Will the state be paying for the 911 calls to be transcribed…or is the requirement they only be released in written form intended to create such a burdensome cost as to amount to harassment aimed at further discouraging open records requests?

posted by: dano860 | November 26, 2013  11:00am

We, the taxpayer have already paid for the information to be collected. The emergency response people, the investigators, the photographers everyone of the ones involved in the follow-up of any incident are paid for by the taxpayer.
So now we have a guy that was a youth group organizer with no formal education (that I can find) deciding our future! What’s wrong with this picture?
What his circumstances were will be different for others, no one person handles these events the same. grieving is done in hundreds of manners, be it song, partying, praying, crying…that is something everyone has the right to and this information is no different.
Millions of families and victims have the right to obtain this information for whatever reason they desire.
What good is he as a chairman of any committee if he goes off on his own throwing around his ‘thoughts’.
One has to remember how and why he is in the seat he is in, sympathy and name recognition, certainly not his Harvard degree or business accomplishments or success.
Lets get this in the hands of real leaders with experience.