With some of the changes being made at the Aransas Pass Police Department, communication with our local media outlets have been rejuvenated. Though the police department is not in the business of creating or making news, much of what we do often intrigues those within our community, surrounding communities, and sometimes communities across the nation or world.
Unfortunately, when we release information to media sources, we often get fingered as being the “bad guy” by rushing to exploit an individual in the media. We’ll admit there are many times we’d much rather withhold information and not share it at all, as the potential for harm and humiliation towards another, not just the criminals committing the acts but also all others involved in the particular event, remains quite prevalent. In addition, some of the information we are handing out could also lead towards the furtherance of a crime such as retaliation, harassment, or even fraud and identity theft. Regardless, the law under Chapter 552 of the Texas Government code requires such immediate release and mandates potential criminal penalties for government officials who refuse to follow the law.
See our list of FAQ’s pertaining to the Public Information Act:
[toggle title=”What is the Public Information Act?”]The Public Information Act, formerly known as the Open Records Act, is located at chapter 552 of the Government Code. The Act provides a mechanism for citizens to inspect or copy government records. It also provides for instances in which governmental bodies wish to, or are required by law to, withhold government records from the public.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”What records apply?”]Any information collected, assembled, or maintained by or for a governmental body is subject to the Public Information Act. The format (paper, electronic, microfilm, etc.) of the record does not affect its status as a public record. [/toggle]
[toggle title=”How can I make an open records request?”]The request must be in writing and must be addressed to the Aransas Pass Police Department. While the request does not need to be addressed to any particular person, it is a good practice to clearly label your correspondence as a “Public Information Request” or “Open Records Request.” Requests sent via fax or email must be addressed to the public information officer, Gina Villarreal or Yvonne Stonebraker, or to the person designated by that officer to receive such requests.
The Aransas Pass Police Department has made filing a request very easy. Simple do so via our online open records request form.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”How long can Aransas Pass PD take to respond to an open records request?”]The Act provides that Aransas Pass PD must respond “promptly” to a request for information. If Aransas Pass PD is unable to produce the requested information within ten business days, the officer for public information must send you correspondence certifying that he/she is unable to do so and he/she must set a date and time when the records will be available to you. If the Aransas Pass PD feels that an opinion from the Attorney General is needed, the officer for public information shall notify you of such need.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Can the Aransas Pass PD ask for or require the purpose for your open records request?”]No. The Aransas Pass PD and any other government agency cannot inquire as to why the information is needed. However, if the Aransas Pass PD is uncertain as to exactly what is being requested, the officer for public information may ask clarification questions to properly determine the particular information being sought in the request.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”When can Aransas Pass PD refuse to furnish requested records?”]If the information you request falls within one of the exceptions to disclosure found in the Public Information Act, the Aransas Pass PD may refuse to release the information while it seeks an open records decision from the Attorney General. Unless Aransas Pass PD has a previous determination from a court or the Attorney General regarding the precise information requested, Aransas Pass PD cannot determine on its own to withhold information.
Generally those exceptions include the following:
- An open an active investigation, when the information being sought, if released, would compromise the outcome of the investigation or successful prosecution if the case has been sent to the state prosecutor.
- Information relating to a juvenile.
- Identifying information of an officer or public employee if the information puts the employee in harms way.
- Photographs of police officers.
- Information pertaining to crimewatch organizations and participants.
- Information pertaining to a public official if the official has requested his/her private information remain confidential.
- Information pertaining to deferred criminal cases.
- Information pertaining to the departments network security infrastructure or such information that could put the network infrastructure at risk.
- Identifying information about a victim shelter employee/worker and locations of victim shelters.
- Email addresses of people who communicate with members of the governing body.
- Texas Crime Victim Applicant information.