An effort by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to deny information to journalists is a misapplication of the law, according to one state lawmaker.
LVMPD recently stopped providing information to Nevada Current, citing a 2017 amendment to state law requiring that reporters be affiliated with “a newspaper, press association or commercially operated, federally licensed radio or television station” in order to receive “a record of a named person or information for statistical purposes, excluding any personal identifying information…”
Some of the information requested by the Current was about general policy and not a criminal record.
LVMPD has declined to say how many additional media requests the department has denied.
According to legislative minutes, an official with the Department of Public Safety said the proposed amendment to AB 76 was prompted by an information request from a member of the Nevada media for:
A database, Excel document or delineated text file of all criminal history records in Nevada including fields for the name, date of birth, all arrests, convictions, dates of actions, jurisdictions of the actions, sentences. Please provide the information for all individuals as far back as the data is kept electronically.
In addition to prohibiting blanket requests, Mindy McKay, Records Bureau Chief of the Department of Public Safety, asked lawmakers to eliminate language defining a reporter as working for the “electronic or print media.”
“We are concerned that given ‘reporter’ as currently defined, anybody
with a computer and Internet connection can write a blog, claim to be a reporter
and start requesting individual’s criminal histories purely for curiosity checks,” McKay told lawmakers.
State Senator Richard Segerblom, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which amended Assembly Bill 76 in 2017, told the Current “AB 76 was never intended to restrict legitimate news organizations and reporters – whether they publish on paper or the Internet – from obtaining criminal records.”
In a letter to Metro, Wesley Juhl, President of the Society for Professional Journalists Las Vegas, writes that Metro’s interpretation of the statute “defies the spirit of the state’s public records law. As NRS 239.001 says, records are made public “to foster democratic principles.” Nevada Public Records law “must be construed liberally” and “any exemption, exception or balancing of interests which limits or restricts access… must be construed narrowly.”