NewsPublic Affairs / March 10, 2016

Should Private University Police Hand Over Public Records?

A bill waiting for the governor's signature would only require private university police departments to release some public records. - WTIU

A bill waiting for the governor's signature would only require private university police departments to release some public records.

WTIU

A bill that would protect private university police departments from disclosing the same public records as all other police departments in the state could become law. The legislation is sitting on the governor’s desk.

Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, proposed the bill. It would only require private university police departments to disclose information about people they arrest or put in jail.

That means they won’t have to hand over any investigatory records, which President of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government Gerry Lanosga says make up the majority of police interactions.

“We generally don’t approve of the concept of secret policing, and essentially that’s what we’re allowing to happen here in some ways if we allow some records that other police departments have to disclose to be kept private,” Lanosga says.

He also thinks the exemption for university police departments is so narrowly written it could allow the public to request other records.

“I think unwittingly the legislature may be opening up these private university police departments to requests of a whole host of other records,” he says. “Citizens could ask for records of their budgets. For instance, records related to the personnel disciplinary histories of their officers. ”

An amendment to the bill provides private university police officers with the same immunities and protections as state police officers.

The legislation comes as the University of Notre Dame and ESPN are battling in court over whether the Notre Dame Security Police should have to release certain records to the public. Notre Dame argues its status as a private university extends to its police department.

Indiana’s appeals court heard oral arguments in that case last month and could issue a decision in the coming weeks.

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