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May 3, 2000

Ms. Cathy S. Compton
Assistant District Attorney
Hays County Justice Center
110 E. Martin Luther King
San Marcos, Texas 78666

OR2000-1720

Dear Ms. Compton:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 134867.

The Hays County Narcotics Task Force (the "task force") received a request for a copy of its policies, practices, procedures, and mission statements. You claim that portions of the requested information are excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.108 provides in pertinent part as follows:

(b) An internal record or notation of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if:

(1) release of the internal record or notation would interfere with law enforcement or prosecution[.]

Gov't Code 552.108(b)(1). This office has stated that certain procedural information may be withheld under section 552.108 of the Government Code, or its statutory predecessors. See, e.g., Open Records Decision Nos. 531 (1989) (detailed use of force guidelines), 456 (1987) (forms indicating location of off-duty police officers), 413 (1984) (security measures to be used at next execution), 143 (1976) (specific operations or specialized equipment directly related to investigation or detection of crime). To claim this aspect of section 552.108 protection, however, a governmental body must meet its burden of explaining, if the requested information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention. Open Records Decision No. 562 at 10 (1990). Further, commonly known policies and techniques may not be withheld under section 552.108. See, e.g., Open Records Decision Nos. 531 at 2-3 (1989) (Penal Code provisions, common law rules, and constitutional limitations on use of force are not protected under section 552.108), 252 at 3 (1980) (governmental body did not meet burden because it did not indicate why investigative procedures and techniques requested were any different from those commonly known with law enforcement and crime prevention).

You explain that drug detection is very different than other types of law enforcement investigations and that release of the highlighted information would impair the task force members' ability to perform their duties because of the clandestine nature of drug detection and investigation. You assert that release of the information would impair the task force members' ability to develop investigatory leads and affect the strategy used in investigations. Moreover, you explain that release of the highlighted information would enable drug traffickers and users to avoid detection. Further, you assert that release of the information could endanger the lives of task force members.

After a review of your arguments and the submitted information, we agree that you may withhold the following sections of the standard operating procedures:, 11.0, 11.1, 19.0, and 21.0-29.0. You may also withhold pages 18A-18A.3 and 32A-32A.1 of the appendix. Further, you may withhold the marked portions of section 8.0. You may also withhold sections 10.0 and 10.0A of the policies and procedures. However, we conclude that you have not demonstrated that release of the remaining highlighted information would interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention. Further, we believe that the remaining information contains commonly known policies and techniques which may not be withheld under section 552.108. Therefore, we conclude that the task force may withhold the enumerated sections under section 552.108(b), but must release the remaining highlighted information.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Bialek
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JHB/nc

Ref: ID# 134867

Encl. Marked documents

cc: Mr. Billy McNabb
136 E. San Antonio Street
San Marcos, Texas 78666
(w/o enclosures)


 

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