Task Force Tries to Balance Victim Privacy and Public Information

Dec 2, 2013

Don DeCesare, the panel's co-chair.
Credit CT-N

A state task force met today as it works to find ways to balance victim privacy with freedom of information laws. But consensus is still hard to come by.

It's been almost a year since the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 26 people at a gunman dead. Lawmakers have grappled with the question of how to respond -- on guns, school security, and mental health.

Now, they're turning their attention to the state's laws governing the disclosure of public records like 911 calls and crime scene photos. The task force met a day after a state court judge ordered the release of 911 tapes from the school, dismissing the arguments of a state prosecutor who sought to keep them private.

Several different, sometimes competing proposals are in the mix. They grapple with the question of how much deference should be given to the victims of crime when deciding what public information about a crime should be exempt from disclosure. DebraLee Hovey, a lawmaker representing Newtown, said, "I believe that the legislature put its toe in this water because we were trying to protect victims of especially homicide."

But James Smith said that's a bad way to start. He's the president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. "We really cannot make public policy seeking the opinions of people who are still legitimately, awfully traumatized by what happened to them," he said.

The task force is due to report back to the legislature by January 1. Watch a video archive of the proceedings below: