February 5, 1997

Open Records Decision

In re: Richard P. Powell/Jefferson County Police Department

This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the response of the Jefferson County Police Department to Mr. Richard P. Powell's October 1, 1996 open records request for “copies of all traffic accident reports within your jurisdiction on a weekly basis.”

By letter dated October 4, 1996, Mr. Wm. Dennis Sims, Esq., Legal Affairs, Jefferson County Police Department, responded to Mr. Powell's request, stating in relevant part:

In regard to your continuing request for documents, there is no authority under Kentucky's Open Records Act to make such a request. Therefore, if you wish to inspect such documents, on a weekly basis, you will need to make weekly requests to inspect with sufficient clarity to enable the Department to locate and make the documents available for inspection.

Your correspondence is correct in stating that there is no reason why your business should be exempt from reviewing traffic accident reports. However, pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(a), information of a personal nature contained in accident reports is redacted prior to giving the document to anyone other than the parties involved in the accident or their appropriate representative. As to your reliance on your status as a news gathering organization, I believe you may be referring to KRS 189.635, which it is my understanding has been declared unconstitutional as written. Regardless of your status as a news gathering organization, the Jefferson County Police Department does not allow inspection of complete accident reports containing information of a personal nature to anyone other than the involved parties.

We are asked to determine whether the response of the Department was consistent with the Open Records Act. For the reasons which follow, we conclude that it was consistent with the Act.

We believe that 97-ORD-18, and the authorities cited therein, address and are controlling as to the issues raised in this appeal. A copy of that decision is attached hereto and incorporated by reference.

In summary, this office has long recognized that “uniform police traffic accident reports prepared by law enforcement officers pursuant to KRS 189.635 are not confidential, and are open records under the open records law. We also have recognized that accident reports may contain information of a personal or confidential nature which may be exempt from disclosure under KRS 61.878(1)(a), such as social security numbers, and the public agency may blot out or expunge the information which is confidential and make the non-excepted material available for inspection. OAG 89-76. Further, this office has held that “standing requests” are not proper under the Open Records Act, and need not be honored and a public agency may require a separate application for inspection of specific records each time an applicant desires to inspect public records.

It is the decision of this office that the Jefferson County Police Department's response was proper and consistent with provisions of the Open Records Act.

A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General should be notified of any action in circuit court, but should not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceeding.

A. B. Chandler III

Attorney General

James M. Ringo

Assistant Attorney General


Distributed to:

Richard P. Powell

The Daily Legal

8866 Oak Circle

Tampa FL 33615

Wm. Dennis Sims

Legal Affairs

Jefferson County Police Department

768 Barret Avenue

Louisville KY 40204