Ohio State violated Ohio public records law when it withheld names in a police report provided to The Lantern through a public records request, according to a report by a special master in the Ohio Court of Claims.
The special master also found in the report, issued Friday, that the university took too long to provide the record.
Special Master Jeffrey Clark found that Ohio State failed to produce the requested records in a timely manner and was wrong in denying the release of the names of uncharged suspects in police reports based on an “unfounded assertion that the requested police reports did not include an existing initial incident report.”
Clark also found that the issues of the case, redacting information in police reports, were likely to repeat in future requests for police reports.
“Failure to correct this policy and practice would create a perverse incentive for law enforcement agencies to litigate, wait, and belatedly disclose, if delay is the agency’s objective,” Clark wrote in the report.
University spokesperson Chris Davey said in an email that they are reviewing the special master’s decision at this time.
Former Lantern Editor-in-Chief Edward Sutelan said he believes that Ohio State should be held to the same standard as other police departments in Ohio and around the country when producing public records.
“Ohio State, in my experience, has often got into a habit of providing redacted police reports and this was a relatively important police report that redacted information that I think was worth the public knowing even if charges weren’t filed,” Sutelan said. “In my experience, that’s not a typical case with other police departments.”
The initial records request was filed Sept. 26, 2018, and the redacted report was provided to The Lantern more than 18 weeks later on Feb. 4.
Sutelan filed the complaint Feb. 27, stating Ohio State improperly denied a request for public records by redacting the name of a suspect in a sexual assault reported at a campus dorm.
The suspect was later revealed to be former Ohio State football player Brian Snead.
Ohio State provided an unredacted copy of the police report May 14, and then asked that the case be dismissed. Sutelan asked that it continue because he said the redaction reflected “standard practice” for the university.
Clark’s report found Sutelan’s concern was valid.
“I find this to be an important issue that is not just capable of repetition, but highly likely to repeat for Sutelan, his colleagues, and his successors at The Lantern,” the report reads.
Each party has seven business days to file an objection to the report.