Posted on Nov 17, 2005 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 05-17
November 17, 2005
Request for Emergency 911 Tape

On October 12, 2005, the Hawaii County Police Department (“HCPD”) received an emergency 911 telephone call concerning an “accidental stabbing.” Authorities responding to the 911 call discovered the body of a 4-month old infant who had suffered a fatal stab wound.  The infant’s 16-year old mother was arrested and charged in Family Court with second degree murder in connection with the  stabbing death of her son.  HCPD denied a request for acccess to the 911 tape, and the requester appealed HCPD’s denial to OIP.

The UIPA generally provides that a government record must be made accessible to a requester unless an exception to that general requirement exists. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-11 (1993).  The exception relied upon by HCPD, section 92F-13(4), HRS, provides that an agency may withhold “[g]overnment records which, pursuant to State or federal law including an order of any State or federal court, are protected from disclosure[.]”  Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-13(4) (1993). Under state law, police department records relating to proceedings filed in the Family Court are confidential unless otherwise ordered by the court.  Haw. Rev. Stat. § 571-84(e) (Supp. 2004).

OIP ruled that, because state law requires confidentiality of the requested 911 tape in this instance, the UIPA allowed HCPD to deny access to the tape.

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