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Maine Legislature Considers 911 Privacy Bill

A Maine newspaper’s recent request for 911 logging tapes related to a homicide has prompted the state legislature to consider amending the law to exempt such calls from the state’s open records law. A legislative committee heard testimony last week that releasing 911 calls from cases under active investigation by law enforcement could jeopardize prosecutions. But state media organizations say that access to 911 call recordings is important to maintain proper government oversight. Maine is one of 10 states that prohibit release of 911 call recordings or limit their release. However, the current law doesn’t specifically provide protection for call recordings when police are still investigating a crime. Under L.D. 495, the state’s records confidentiality law would add public safety comm centers to the list of agency records to be protected, and specifically protect comm center records “when in the custody of a criminal justice agency.” In the existing “Disclosure Required” section of the state records law, an exemption would be added for, “information or records that related to a pending law enforcement investigation or pending criminal prosecution.” The proposed law would also add penalties for disclosing confidential information, including 911 call audio or transcripts. Download (pdf) the proposed bill here, and read more about the debate here.

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