Police department denies newspaper access to reports

Matt Stensland

— Interim Steamboat Springs Police Chief Jerry DeLong on Thursday denied Steamboat Today’s records request for reports related to the police department investigation.

DeLong’s response can be found here in its entirety.

On July 10, Steamboat Today filed the records request for the reports prepared by Katherine Nuanes, the private investigator hired by the city to look into serious allegations at the department.

The city did release Reports One and Two and a summary of Report Six, but it took nine weeks for DeLong to make a decision on Reports three, four and five. The interim chief was tasked with making the decision, because the city considered the reports criminal justice records, and as such, DeLong was the custodian of the records.

“The reports are the findings of police department internal affairs investigations, which were conducted in accordance with the applicable police department polices,” DeLong wrote. “For these and other reason, I believe that the records are properly classified as criminal justice records.”

Steamboat Today disagrees, but has not yet determined whether it will pursue legal action to have the reports released.

Through discussions with former City Manager Deb Hinsvark, Steamboat Today learned the three unreleased reports pertain to management styles of former Police Chief Joel Rae, former Deputy Chief Bob DelValle, and a third unnamed officer, who is still employed by the department.

In the case of criminal justice records, the custodian of such records has to decide whether it is in the public’s interest to release the information.

In his response, Delong wrote he conducted a balancing test in which he examined the privacy interest of the individuals who might be impacted by a decision to allow inspection; the agency’s interest in keeping confidential information confidential; the agency’s interest in pursuing ongoing investigations without compromising them; the public purpose served by inspection; and, any other consideration relevant to the particular interest.

DeLong wrote, in part, that releasing the report would “cause substantial harm to the operation and functioning of the police department,” and violating the confidentiality witnesses were promised would “affect the comraderies and trust within the department, which is so important in law enforcement.”

As to Report Three, DeLong wrote that the subject of the report is no longer an employee, “and thus, public concern regarding ongoing impropriety by that individual no longer exists.”

DeLong wrote that Report 5 pertains to the person still employed at the police department.

“I have not yet made decisions regarding whether to impose discipline as to one of the individuals and, if so, what discipline and, therefore, the investigation and related disciplinary process is by no means complete, and that is another factor that weighs against disclosure,” DeLong wrote. “The disciplinary process would be hampered and negatively impacted if the results of the investigation were disclosed, especially before the process was complete.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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