Written by Gary Jeanfaivre
Connecticut's nine-member Freedom of Information Commission has ruled in favor of several media outlets by ordering the release of the 911 tapes from the shooting at Sandy Hook School.
The decision, rendered today, supports the findings of the commission’s hearing officer, Kathleen Ross, who rejected the Newtown Police Department’s claim that the calls could jeopardize an investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting.
An official police report on that tragedy, which claimed the life of 20 children and six educators, has not yet been released.
The Associated Press and numerous other media outlets, including Hearst Newspapers, requested the tapes under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
“On the day of the shooting, the AP requested documents, including copies of 911 calls, as it does routinely in news gathering, in part to examine the police response to the massacre that sent officers from multiple agencies racing to the school,” theAP writes in a story posted on ABC.com. “If the recordings are released, the AP would review the content and determine what, if any, of it would meet the news cooperative's standards for publication.”
The hearing Wednesday was to rule on the media outlets’ appeal of the denial from the Newtown Police Department. According toan article by the Connecticut Post, Ross found the department "did not even look for the 911 recordings" until the end of May, months after the request was made.
State’s New Public Records Law Not Applicable Here
In June, the Connecticut legislature passed a law changing the state's public records statute to prohibit crime scene photos from the shooting from being released. After passage, Malloy said the agreement "respects the rights of grieving families."
"The fact is, all families have the right to grieve in private," Malloy said at the time.
The new legislation did not prohibit the release of 911 calls — unless they contained descriptions of homicide victims.The Commission’s decision can be appealed in court, but it was not immediately known if that action would be taken.
— Davis Dunavin contributed to this report.