Problem is, the AG is relying on an overbroad interpretation of the Public Information Act to claim that key portions of police use of force policies are closed records. But in fact, there appears to be no solid basis in the law for that view. Proponents of opacity try to skirt around the plain language of the statute by saying release of policies would "interfere with law enforcement." But that's not an exception to the open records act!
Texas Appleseed, which rallied against the Texas Youth Commission's pepper spray-usage policy two years ago, is now looking into pepper spray and Taser usage in public schools.
The nonprofit filed open-records requests with 24 school districts across Texas in July asking for the use-of-force policies. About half the districts complied.
Among those that didn't were SAISD and Spring Branch ISD — both of which had suits filed against them Thursday.
Leslie Price, spokeswoman for SAISD, said Friday the district hadn't yet been informed of the suit but that the disagreement is nothing new.
The Texas Attorney General's Office issued an opinion in October that the school district didn't have to fully comply with the request because some law enforcement details are exempt from open-record laws.
Agencies seeking to close these records rely on Sec. 552.108 of the government code, which states in relevant part that agencies may keep from disclosure any information which might "interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime."
Use of force policies don't fit any of those three categories. They involve how police interact with suspects during arrest. By the time of an arrest, a crime has already been "detected." Similarly, the arrest process does not implicate the "investigation" of crime: When use of force is part of the investigatory process, that amounts to torture which is clearly illegal. And only prosecutors can prosecute, so policies about how police conduct arrests simply have nothing to do with the prosecution of any alleged underlying crime.
I'm not an attorney so maybe I'm missing something. I'd appreciate anyone who thinks otherwise to present an argument in the comments regarding how releasing police use of force policies could possibly "interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime" as described in Govt Code Sec. 552.108. I just don't see it, and I'm hopeful a district court will agree and enforce the plain language of the Texas Public Information Act.