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Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
GREG ABBOTT
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December 10, 2002

Mr. Gordon Bowman
Assistant County Attorney
Travis County
P.O. Box 1748
Austin, Texas 78767

OR2002-7015

Dear Mr. Bowman:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID#173388.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office ("TCSO") received a request for TCSO's policy regarding vehicle pursuits. You claim that the requested information is 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 of the Government Code provides pertinent part:

. . .

(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 [required public disclosure] if:

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

You state that the procedural document you have submitted for review is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(b)(1). To claim this exception, a governmental body must explain, 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). Generally 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).

This office has stated that under the statutory predecessor to section 552.108(b), a governmental body may withhold information that would reveal law enforcement techniques or procedures. See, e.g., Open Records Decision Nos. 531 (1989) (release of detailed use of force guidelines would unduly interfere with law enforcement), 456 (1987) (release of forms containing information regarding location of off-duty police officers in advance would unduly interfere with law enforcement), 413 (1984) (release of sketch showing security measures to be used at next execution would unduly interfere with law enforcement), 409 (1984) (if information regarding certain burglaries exhibit a pattern that reveals investigative techniques, information is excepted under section 552.108), 341 (1982) (release of certain information from Department of Public Safety would unduly interfere with law enforcement because release would hamper departmental efforts to detect forgeries of drivers' licenses), 252 (1980) (section 552.108 is designed to protect investigative techniques and procedures used in law enforcement), 143 (1976) (disclosure of specific operations or specialized equipment directly related to investigation or detection of crime may be excepted).

You state that TCSO's pursuit policy explains when officers are allowed to initiate pursuit and when they are mandated to terminate a pursuit. Furthermore, you explain that the policy provides what tactics an officer may and may not use during pursuit, and you accordingly contend that release of the policy would provide an advantage to criminal suspects attempting to evade arrest. You also argue that release of this information could endanger police officers attempting to arrest a suspect, and the general public. Based on your argument and our review of the policy, we agree that release of the majority of the pursuit policy would interfere with law enforcement. Accordingly, we conclude that, with the exception of the portions of the policy we have marked for release, TCSO may withhold the pursuit policy under section 552.108(b)(1) of the Government Code.

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).

Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to Hadassah Schloss at the Texas Building and Procurement Commission at 512/475-2497.

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't Code 552.325. 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,

Heather Pendleton Ross
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
HPR/sdk
Ref: ID# 173388
Enc: Marked documents

c: Mr. Scott Henson
ACLU of Texas Police Accountability Project
1403 Ulit Avenue
Austin, Texas 78702
(w/o enclosures)


 

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