Skip to Content

What police and sheriffs records

Question: 

What police and sheriff’s records are open to the public and press?

Answer: 

Access to law enforcement records is spelled out in detail in an Attorney General’s opinion, Weeg to Holt, 82-10-3. That opinion interprets Chapter 22.7(5), which provides public access to “the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding a crime or incident.”

The opinion notes that a news reporter or citizen does not have to know about a crime or incident to obtain information about it. The request could be a general one, to review the public record of police activities during the past 24 hours: “A citizen may request [Chapter 22.7(5)] information for a particular day or time, or for any number of days or times. The request is not required to specify the particular criminal incident for which the information is requested.”

Generally, the opinion calls for routine access to all “date, time, specific location and immediate facts and circumstances” information, and the record custodian carries “the burden of establishing facts necessary to withhold public records. . . .”

Furthermore, the Iowa Supreme Court held in Mitchell et al. v. Cedar Rapids et al., that investigative records keep their confidential status after an investigation closes.  926 N.W. 2d 222, 232 (Iowa 2019).

In Mitchell, the Supreme Court used a balancing test to decide which records constitute information relating to the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances.  The Court held that certain facts such as the absence of any confidential police informants named in the record, absence of named but innocent suspects, a completed investigation, and the presence of heightened public interest can weigh in favor of disclosure.

Printed from the website on December 04, 2020 at 3:03am.