A proposed bill seeking an exemption from state Freedom of Information laws would greatly hinder the public’s right to know. In the interests of transparency it should not move forward.
A public hearing was held Wednesday on the proposal, which is a response to a state Supreme Court ruling that ordered the disclosure of information about the gunman in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Those in Connecticut hardly need to be reminded of that 2012 nightmare, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders, six educators and himself after having killed his mother at their home. The court order released information to the Hartford Courant that brought insight into motivations of a mass murderer.
The proposed bill would seek to deny such insight. Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane’s office is looking to exempt from freedom of information laws property seized by search warrants without an arrest being made, except if the property is evidence in court.
“To make it public information … really is an intrusion on people’s privacy,” Kane told the Associated Press.
That’s the argument for withholding information. The argument for transparency is far more compelling. The Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information opposed the bill, SB 970, because the public has an interest in information that helps explain how and why things turn out the way they do.
Plus, there are already privacy protections. As Mike Savino, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information has argued, the bill is “an overreach addressing a problem that doesn’t exist.” (Savino is also a Record-Journal editor).
As well as shedding light on a tragedy like the Newtown shootings, transparency helps the public understand other actions of police. The proposed bill would limit that information and cloud issues surrounding police performance and police investigations.
State lawmakers should reject the bill in favor of keeping access to information available to the public.