New Bern Sun Journal: Public records law should apply evenly
From the New Bern Sun Journal (6/9/12): If an arrest is made in a North Carolina county — say, Craven County, for example — by Craven County sheriff's deputies, the details of that crime will soon become public. N.C. law requires that a substantial amount of information about the crime be released to the public in a timely manner.
But, in the wake of a shortsighted ruling issued this week by the N.C. Court of Appeals, if someone is arrested not far up the road on a college campus — say, East Carolina University — by the campus police, the entire incident can be withheld from public view.
This arresting development is the product of a poorly reasoned opinion by the court, which ruled that campus police departments are not public agencies and, thus, not subject to the state’s public records law. (Ochsner vs. Elon University).
The court’s reasoning is that since the legislature did not specifically list campus police departments in the agencies that are subject to the public records law, then the legislature must not have intended for those departments to be covered. In short, the court ruled, these police forces are not “public” agencies.