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Original Author: Bingham, Pamela
Date of Material: 08/20/1997

Subjects(s):
Police--Records
Records management--Open records

Confidentiality of Certain Internal Investigative Notes/Reports

Reviewed Date: 04/22/2021
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 are subject to public disclosure pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act ("TPRA"), subject to a statutory exception, or are otherwise privileged.


August 20, 1997 (updated April 2021)

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 are subject to public disclosure pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act ("TPRA"), subject to a statutory exception, or are otherwise privileged . 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 reviewed the provisions of T.C.A. Section 10-7-504, as well a lengthy compilation of other statutorily-protected records and can find no exception that would cover the factual scenario you presented yesterday. If on the other hand, the investigation of the employee's conduct becomes criminal in nature, Tenn. R. Crim. Procedure 16 allows records related to a pending or contemplated criminal investigation/action to be maintained as confidential. See Appman v. Worthington, 746 S.W.2d 165 (Tenn. 1987) and The Tennessean v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, 485 S.W. 3d 857 (Tenn. 2016). 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 records become part of a pending or contemplated criminal investigation/action, the reports and notes are most likely subject to disclosure.

Very truly yours,

Pamela M.M. Bingham
Legal Consultant