- Special Sections
- Public Notices
As part of our Sunshine Week investigation, we visited four municipal police departments seeking public information. We asked to view patrol logs, and for copies of weekly incident/arrest reports.
What the law says: Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, and unless otherwise prohibited by law, the following information shall be public records within the meaning of General Statute 132-1.
1. The time, date, location and nature of a violation or an apparent violation of the law reported to a public law enforcement agency.
2. The name, sex, age, address, employment and alleged violation of law of a person arrested, charged or indicted.
3. The circumstances surrounding an arrest, including the time and place of the arrest, whether the arrest involved resistance, possession or use of weapons, or pursuit, and a description of any items seized in connection with the arrest.
4. The contents of “911” and other emergency telephone calls received by or on behalf of public law enforcement agencies, expect for such contents that reveal the name, address, telephone number, or other information that may identify the caller, victim or witness.
5. The contents of communications between or among employees of public law enforcement agencies that are broadcast over the public airways.
6. The name, sex, age and address of a complaining witness.
Sunset Beach Police Department
How they did: The employee furnished a list of incident reports from 2008 at no cost. The employee offered to include one more incident that was not included on the incident log.
What they said: Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Massey said the police department is trained annually in public records laws.
“Usually myself, the assistant chief or the detectives' division will furnish that information,” Massey said. “Normally when someone comes in with information like that, the patrolmen will refer them to us.”
Shallotte Police Department
How they did: The employee told our reporter she needed to specify what incident she was looking for. The employee would not let our reporter view police logs but provided her with a listing of incidents responded to on the reporter’s street.
What they said: Police chief Rodney Gause said he did not know why the public records were not furnished. There are three reasons why they cannot release a report, Gause said.
“The only three things that we can’t give out are victims of sexual assault, juveniles and information pertaining to ongoing investigations,” Gause said. “They just come to the front counter and tell the secretary or dispatcher what they need, and we’d be happy to get it for them.”
Ocean Isle Beach Police Department
How they did: We visited the Ocean Isle Beach Police Department twice. The first time, we were told the employee did not have the information and to come back later. When we did, the person whom we were instructed to ask for information said he did not have the information. He asked our reporter who she was and why she wanted the information. No information was furnished.
What they said: “The public merely needs to walk in and ask for the senior officer on duty, and they will get the information,” police chief Curtiss Pritchard said.
When asked why our reporter was denied access to public information, Pritchard stressed his department cannot release information related to juveniles, sexual assaults or ongoing investigations.
“I’m responsible for making sure that these are not given out,” Pritchard said about the three exceptions to the public records law.
Holden Beach Police Department
How they did: Police chief Wally Layne let our reporter view the patrol logs but would not furnish her with copies of incident/arrest reports, saying they were not public record because they had names and addresses in them.
What they said: Layne said he did not think our reporter’s public records request was reasonable. He said when citizens of Holden Beach make a specific request, he complies with their requests, but he didn’t think his agency should furnish “countless reports to countless people.”
When asked what a citizen had to do to request a public record, Layne responded, “From this point on, all they have to do is show up, because we’re going to comply with the law.”
Editor’s note: N.C. General Statute 132-6(b) states, “No person requesting to inspect and examine public records, or to obtain copies thereof, shall be required to disclose the purpose or motive for the request.”