February 8, 2012

How Do you Access Reports of Criminal Investigations?

Do you need a copy of a police report?  Trying to understand what information you may, or may not, obtain can be confusing and frustrating. The Santa Cruz Police Department Records Section put together this helpful primer to answer your questions.

Access to Reports of Criminal Investigations

Police reports are public records.  Anybody should be able to get a copy, right?
Under the California Public Records Act, reports of law enforcement investigations are exempt from public disclosure.  Disclosure of specific information contained within the report is required only to specific persons, such as crime victims and their representatives.

If the report can be released to me, can I come to your lobby and get the report while I wait?
It depends on the nature, length and content of the report.  Your request may be completed by front desk personnel while you wait or it may require time for  review by a detective, the prosecuting attorney and/or the city attorney. 

Portions of my report copy have been blacked-out.  Why is this?
The CPRA and other laws may permit, or even require, the withholding of those parts of the report that contain certain types of information if the release of the information would:
·         jeopardize the successful completion of the investigation, including  prosecution
·         cause harm to a person involved
·         reveal medical information protected under HIPAA
·         reveal the identity of juveniles involved
·         reveal the identity of a suspect who has neither been arrested nor cited
·         etc.

What if I’m not entitled to access the report but it contains information that I need?
We may have other public records that could provide the information you need.  Sharing a bit of information about your purpose, though not required, can be very helpful for us in identifying other public records that will fulfill your needs.