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Iowa Supreme Court approves broad FOIA exemption for police

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that police departments can keep investigative reports secret even after an inquiry has concluded.

The finding is significant because it could be used by municipalities to justify withholding a range of documents, including video, from the public and media.

The court ruled Friday that an exemption to the Iowa Open Records Act for police reports does not apply only to ongoing investigations. Instead, the ruling says lawmakers intended to treat those reports — which often include video from police cameras, audio of 911 calls and other records — as confidential indefinitely.

Justice Thomas Waterman says police only have to release the “immediate facts and circumstances” of a crime or incident under the law.

The finding came in a dispute between the city of Cedar Rapids and a black motorist who was shot and paralyzed after a struggle with a white officer. The court says a judge didn’t err by ordering the city to turn over some records related to that shooting without a protective order barring their public release.

Associated Press

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