Law enforcement personnel privacy exemption passes

The General Assembly has passed its seventh new exemption to the Public Records Law this session, this time creating limitations about what information can be released about law enforcement personnel. The new limitations exempt records of first responders' cellphones and law enforcement officers' addresses, and other "identifying information." 

This week the General Assembly sent Senate Bill 699 to the governor for signature, marking the seventh bill this session that creates new exemptions to the North Carolina Public Records Law. 

Senate Bill 699 creates two distinct exemptions. 

First, it amends the employee personnel privacy statutes for county, and municipal employees to prohibit disclosure – even to other employees – information about sworn law enforcement officers that “might identify the residence” of the officer, their emergency contact information, or any “identifying information” as that phrase is defined in the identity theft statute. The new prohibition does not extend so far as to cover an officer’s name. “Identifying information” includes such things as social security, drivers license and bank account numbers. 

As those provisions only apply to county and municipal employees, sworn law enforcement officers that are employed by school boards, state agencies and universities would not have the same privacy protections. 

Second, within the Public Records Law it creates a new exemption in the sensitive public security information section. It would add a section b(1) that removes from public record the cellphone numbers issued by county, municipal and state governments to law enforcement officers, employees of fire departments, and other first responders. 

Senate Bill 699 includes several provisions that were part of another effort to create special privacy rights for law enforcement officers in House Bill 477. If Gov. McCrory signs Senate Bill 699, it will take effect on Oct. 1, 2015.