Knowledgebase-Confidentiality of Certain Internal Investigative Notes/Reports


Information Product

Title:Confidentiality of Certain Internal Investigative Notes/Reports
Summary:MTAS researched the issue of whether the records of an internal investigation (non-criminal at this point) by the police department of one its employees is subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act or whether it falls within a statutory exception to the Act or is otherwise privileged against disclosure.
Original Author:Bingham, Pamela
Co-Author:
Product Create Date:08/20/97
Last Reviewed on::10/03/2017
Subject:Police--Records; Records management--Open records
Type:Legal Opinion
Legal Opinion:

Reference Documents:

Text of Document: August 20, 1997 (updated October 2017)

Re: Confidentiality of Certain Internal Investigative Notes/Reports

In accordance with our telephone conversation of yesterday, I have researched the issue of whether the records of an internal investigation (non-criminal at this point) by the police department of one its employees is subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act or whether it falls within a statutory exception to the Act or is otherwise privileged against disclosure. I believe that since the investigation is non-criminal, the notes or reports are probably subject to the Public Records Act, and thus must be made available to inspection by any citizen upon request.

I have reviewed the provisions of T.C.A. Section 10-7-504, "Confidential Records," (attached) as well a lengthy compilation of other statutorily-protected records (appended to that section of the Code), and can find no exception that would cover the factual scenario you presented yesterday. If on the other hand, the investigation could or might involve any criminal charges being brought against the employee in question, Tenn. R. Crim. Procedure 16 would protect any investigative files that are still open. See Appman v. Worthington, 746 S.W.2d 165 (Tenn. 1987). See also Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. No. U94-151; Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. No. 85-099 (attached) In the first AG opinion cited, the attorney general determined that fingerprints and photographs in active criminal files of the police department were not open to public dissemination or disclosure. Thus, in summary, unless the investigation were to involve the possibility of criminal charges being brought against the employee, the reports and notes are most likely subject to disclosure.

Very truly yours,

Pamela M.M. Bingham
Legal Consultant

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