Suffolk, Va. – A review of thousands of police replies to citizens seeking public records shows most Hampton Roads departments follow the law, even if they only release the minimum required. However, NewsChannel 3 found dozens of instances where citizens were improperly denied records, where police cited the wrong codes and exemptions, or where authorities failed to cite the specific reasons they were withholding documents.
Suffolk police, for example, wrote dozens of denials saying requests involved “current investigative information or material pending a court hearing.” That phrase is not found anywhere in the act’s exemptions. Suffolk usually followed that phrase by citing a code section — 2.2-3706 (A) — which is the entire police-records section of FOIA. The law says police must cite a specific exemption.
NewsChannel 3 provided the responses to Megan Rhyne, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. She said Suffolk’s responses were overly broad, and used cut-and-paste, form-letter language that didn’t serve citizens. Continue>>>