Posted on Dec 22, 2021 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Ltr. No. F22-01
December 22, 2021
Police Report, Administrative Complaint,
and Body Worn Camera Recordings

A personal record requester (Requester) made a request to­­ the Kauai Police Department (POLICE-K) for a copy of a police report, the file for an administrative complaint he filed against five police officers, and associated body worn camera (BWC) recordings.  POLICE-K denied access and Requester filed an OIP appeal.

With regard to the police report, at the time the record request was made, an investigation concerning the incident was still pending and POLICE-K denied access.  After this appeal was filed and the Kauai Department of the Prosecuting Attorney declined prosecution, POLICE-K informed OIP that it no longer would withhold the police report in its entirety, and would disclose it after redaction of the name, address, and statement and supporting evidence of the witness.  OIP found that section 92F‑22(1)(A), HRS, allowed POLICE-K to withhold the witness’s name, address, and statement and supporting evidence under the UIPA’s Part III because the police report related to law enforcement activities.  However, OIP’s previously adopted analysis requires that, when a record falls within an exemption to disclosure under the UIPA’s Part III, it must then be determined whether the record may also be withheld under the UIPA’s Part II.  OIP found that section 92F‑13(1), HRS, allows POLICE-K to withhold the witness’s name, address, and statement and supporting evidence to avoid a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the witness.

The administrative investigation resulted from a complaint filed by Requester against five officers.  It included statements of two witnesses.  The witnesses’ statements were originally part of police reports that became the subject of the administrative complaint.  OIP found POLICE-K was entitled to withhold the names and addresses of witnesses in the underlying police reports under Part III of the UIPA based on section 92F‑22(1)(A), HRS, and also under Part II of the UIPA based on section 92F‑13(1).  OIP further found that the portions of the administrative complaint that are not part of the police reports must be disclosed to Requester under the UIPA’s Part III.

With regard to the BWC recordings, OIP found POLICE-K may deny Part III access under section 92F-22(1)(A), HRS, and Part II access under section 92F-13(1), HRS, to only the portions of BWC recordings of statements by witnesses that would identify those witnesses, to avoid a clearly unwarranted invasion of the witnesses’ personal privacy.  In this case, most of the recordings may be withheld to protect the witnesses’ privacy.  OIP emphasized that this conclusion should not be interpreted to allow wholesale withholding of BWC recordings in every situation.  Whether, and to what extent, BWC recordings may be withheld must be determined on a case-by-case basis.  Here, there is little public interest in disclosure of witness identities.  For other cases involving BWC recordings, the public interest in disclosure could be much higher.

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