Department Policies

UPDATE: Saginaw has released their policy after the AG’s office advised them that they may withhold some of its information but failed to show how the release of the rest of the policy would be legally problematic.

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The requestor is not savvy to what information the AG’s office marked to be withheld. Read the policy and related correspondence in the documents section below.

ORIGINAL POST: Not surprisingly, requesting and collecting records related to these 19 cases, including departments’ policies and procedures related to an officer-involved shooting, has proven to be quite the time- and resource-consuming task.

While most departments have willingly shared their policies, three – Freeport, Conroe and Saginaw – have fought the release of their policies and asked the Texas attorney general for guidance. In a 1989 decision, then-Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox wrote that only portions of use of force policies that “restate generally known common-law rules, constitutional limitations, or Penal Code provisions are open to the public.”

As for the detailed guidelines on use of force, though, Mattox wrote they could be withheld, saying it was reasonable to conclude that releasing those details would “place an individual at an advantage in confrontations with police officers and would increase his chances of evading arrest or injuring the officer or other persons.”

Freeport’s attorney argued that the case remains under investigation and claimed the policy’s release “would open up a whole new avenue for cross-examination of testifying police officers:”

Excerpt of letter from Freeport City Attorney to the Texas Attorney General in response to request for their police shooting policies

The AG’s office sided with Freeport, ruling that the release of the policies and other requested information “would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime.”

Conroe claimed releasing their policy would “impair an officer’s ability to arrest a suspect and would place individuals at an advantage,” in confrontations with police, similar to the city of San Antonio’s request for the 1989 decision.

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From San Antonio’s request:

Furthermore, the release of this information has the potential for interfering with law enforcement objectives in that it may equip the public, and particularly criminals, with guidance as to the type of conduct which an officer must tolerate before he may exercise the use of force, and have the effect of encouraging these individuals to tailor their behavior accordingly.

In response to Conroe’s request, the AG’s office wrote that it marked some of the department’s Use of Force General Order to be withheld because it “would interfere with law enforcement.” The rest of the policy, though, may not be withheld because Conroe “failed to demonstrate any of the remaining information you seek to withhold on this basis would interfere with law enforcement or crime prevention.”

The AG’s office has not yet responded to Saginaw’s request for a ruling, in which the city states the release would compromise officer safety:

Excerpt of letter from Saginaw City Attorney to the Texas Attorney General in response to request for their police shooting policies

Please peruse policies – and correspondence on the withheld policies – from Point of Impact’s involved agencies below: