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Requests For Public Records From The Pennsylvania State Police Are Subject To Broad Exemptions.

Thomas J. Szymanski
Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Philadelphia Office

March 28, 2014

Pa. State Police v. McGill, 2014 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 39, 1, 2014 WL 60114 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1/8/14)

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) appealed a determination of the Office of Open Records (OOR) ordering the PSP to disclose to a newspaper and reporter (Requesters) the names of all police officers accredited by the MPOETC and their departments, but with the names of officers conducting undercover and covert operations redacted.

Although the court found that the PSP did not show that the record was exempt under the public safety and personal security exemptions in 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.708(b)(1)(ii), (2), (3), (16)(vi)(D) and (16)(vi)(E), as only the name of a person engaged in undercover work could not be released, the records were nonetheless not released because the PSP had to contact over 1,100 departments to find undercover officers—who were constantly subject to change—essentially forcing it to “create a record,” contrary to 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.705.

The Requesters were advised by the court as to the proper way to proceed. A requester of public records can request the names of all police officers employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, municipalities or other governmental police departments. Subject to exceptions authorized by the Right-to-Know Law, 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.101 et seq, those individual police departments must provide the requester with a list of police officers, with the names of those police officers who are engaged in undercover or covert activities redacted. The requester may then give that list to the Pennsylvania State Police, which is obligated to provide requested accreditation information.


The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

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