Journal News Challenges the Eastchester Police on Freedom of Information Law

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Journal News Challenges the Eastchester Police on Freedom of Information Law

December 31, 2008 - 13:36

In the December, 30th article by the Journal News' Cops Release IDs of teen Shoplifting Suspects in Eastchester, the newspaper was successful in its FOIL challenge of the Eastchester Police policy on not releasing the names of four 16 year olds accused of shoplifting :

Each of the girls was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, Kiernan said(Eastchester Police Sgt. Matt Kiernan), because they allegedly were working together to steal the merchandise.Kiernan refused to release the names of the girls, saying it was department policy not to identify people who are under 21 and could be eligible for youthful-offender status.

That policy, however, may violate the state's Freedom of Information Law. Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, has said youthful-offender provisions do not apply when the charge involves a felony. And Mark A. Fowler, an attorney for The Journal News, has said youthful-offender provisions do not allow police to unilaterally withhold a suspect's identity.

The reason this issue is important is it represents an example of how the anyone, in this case the Press, is able to challenge a local government agency's established policy that appears to contradict the New York State Freedom of Information Law. It is extremely important for Stakeholders to challenge many of the responses we assume, that because they are given by our government institutions, are true and accurate. It is the job of every individual to ensure the appropriate "Checks and Balances" on public institutions. The Freedom of Information Law is designed for this purpose.