Pubdate: Thu, 08 Apr 1999
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)


* The Court Says Privacy Concerns Shield Information About Family And Health.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a criminal defendant may inspect
a police officer's personnel files, but cannot obtain personal information
such  as the officer's home address or names of children.

The ruling came in the case of Carl J. Faehl, who was indicted last April in
U.S. District Court in Dayton on charges of conspiracy to distribute large
amounts of cocaine and marijuana.

Faehl's attorney, assistant federal Public Defender Beth Goldstein Lewis,
requested the right to inspect and copy all personnel and internal affairs
records relating to Miami County Sheriff's Detective Paul Reece.

In May 1998, federal prosecutors sought an order to stop Faehl from getting
the information. The prosecutors asserted that disclosing the records would
violate Reece's right to privacy and would give Faehl and his attorneys
records they would not otherwise be entitled to in a criminal case.

They also said the records should not be released because Reece and his wife
have been targets of threats in connection with Reece's investigation of a
drug  organization, allegedly involving Faehl.

Lewis hailed Wednesday's decision and said, "We will be most likely be
filing a new request of the Miami County Sheriff's Department" for
information about Reece.

But state Rep. Jeff Jacobson, R-Phillipsburg, said the ruling is also a
"tremendous victory" for law enforcement officers.

Jacobson said the ruling "upholds 100 percent" a bill now pending in the
legislature that would exempt personal information about police officers
from Ohio's Public Records Act.

He said the bill would "make clear that the public has a right to look at a
police officer's performance and all kinds of things about his background,
but not involving his family, his personal bank accounts" and similar

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also has found that personal
information about police officers and their families is not part of the
public record.

The Ohio Supreme Court held that those portions of the records "that contain
the names of the officers' children, spouses, parents, home addresses,
telephone numbers, beneficiaries, medical information and the like" are not
public and should be protected "by the constitutional right of privacy."

"On the other hand, any records needed by a defendant in a criminal case
that reflect on discipline, citizen complaints, or how an officer does her
or his job can be obtained."

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