Yes - audio tapes are just a different form of public record.
Iowans dial "9-1-1" every day to report a crime or accident or call for medical assistance. Are audio tapes of 911 calls public records? Public records do include "all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium." Iowa Code sec. 22.1(3). What if a 911 call includes confidential information? Can an audio tape be edited prior to release?
Generally, audio tapes of 911 calls are public records and must be released by the lawful custodian, unless a specific provision of law makes all or part of the tape confidential. The following guidelines apply to release of audio tapes, including those which contain confidential information:
- Open Records: Audio tapes of 911 calls which do not include confidential information are open records and must be released on request. Iowa Code sec. 22.1(3).
- Confidential Information: Most audio tapes of 911 calls about a crime or incident should be treated as peace officers' investigative reports that may be kept confidential; however, the "date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances" must be released, except under unusual circumstances (see below.)
- Unusual Circumstances: When release of information in a 911 audio tape "would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger" to a person's safety, the "date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances" about a crime or incident should be kept confidential. Iowa Code sec. 22.7(5).
Remember: Audio tapes of 911 calls are just a different form of public record and must be released, unless confidential under law. When a crime or incident is involved, the public has a right to certain information in a 911 tape -- except under unusual circumstances.
Sunshine advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws – our "sunshine” laws. Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.
The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent board that the Iowa Legislature established specifically to address open meetings and open records-related matters. The IPIB provides information to the public and governmental entities on "sunshine" issues.
The IPIB, which has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and enforce Iowa's open meetings and open records laws, enables citizens to file a complaint if they believe that someone is violating these laws.
Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings should contact the Iowa Public Information Board. Iowa Public Information Board.
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