The Texas Attorney General's Open Records rulings are on line, and browsing through them provides an educational and entertaining way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
If a governmental body in Texas receives an Open Records request and wishes to withhold the information then it has ten business days within which to request a ruling from the Attorney General. And given the number of rulings, one is tempted to assume that every Open Records request submitted to any governmental body in Texas gets appealed to the AG for a ruling.
Go to the Texas Atty General's website, plug a key word into the search engine, and browse through the rulings for a study of what is being requested and how the Assistant AG's handled it. The reader doesn't get to see the results of the request but merely the ruling on whether or not the government body needs to supply it and the legal basis of the ruling. What follows is a sampling, but not a treatise. Each letter applies only to that particular request, but hopefully, there's some consistency. Here goes.
August 27, 1997 -- The Midland County District Attorney received a request from ABC News 20/20 for: "any and all copies of documents pertaining to the rape and/or sexual assault of civilians by law enforcement officers in the state of Texas." Link-PDF. The AG ruled that some of the info could be withheld and some couldn't. The addendum to this letter provides a list of they type of information from a criminal report that is available to the public. (Was there a 20/20 show utilizing this information? I must have missed it.)
January 29, 2008 -- The Abilene Assistant City Attorney received a request from the Abilene Reporter-News for the release of information regarding a sexual-assault offense report, and the Texas Assistant Attorney General letter ruling states that information tending to identify the sexual assault victim is private and must be withheld. Link-PDF.
March 27, 2008 -- Abilene again. This request was for the release of information regarding a specific undescribed incident apparently involving a police officer. The Assistant Attorney General noted that Abilene is a civil service city under Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code and distinguished personnel files, which are not subject to disclosure, from civil service files which are. See section 143.089(a) for a description of information required to be put in the civil service file, for example, investigatory material in a case resulting in disciplinary action. However, in this case the AAG ruled that the certain information could be withheld because of a pending criminal investigation but basic information must be released. Link- PDF. (See the next letter about a request for police officer personnel files in a non-civil service city.)
May 12, 2008 -- This letter regards a request for personnel files of two Midland police officers. The AAG relied on Government Code Section 552.022 and stated that the city may not withhold performance evaluations, completed reports, and completed investigations excepting certain personal information considered confidential by law, e.g., medical, illness, handicap, financial and criminal history. But another exception applied to certain information related to litigation pended in the federal court case of Ofelia Cano et. al v. the City of Midland, et al. Link. (That lawsuit alleges damages resulting from the violation of several Constitutional Amendments during a traffic stop and subsequent incarceration.)
September 6, 2007 -- This is in regard to a request from Lulu Corona of the Permian Basin League of United Latin American Citizens to the Midland Police Department for information related to allegations of police brutality or harassment between January 1, 1987 and May 31, 2007. The letter from the AAG specifies that certain information may be withheld, specifically, motor vehicle record information, medical records, information obtained from a polygraph examination, and information in regard to common law privacy. The remaining information must be released. Link. (This was a big news item at the time. Maybe the information would cast a bad light on the police department. On the other hand, maybe the public would look at it and decide the police department is doing a good job. But why has this information never been made public? See next letter.)
September 11, 2007 -- A Midland Reporter-Telegram reporter directed a request to the City of Midland for the following: (1) complaints filed against officers of the Midland Police Department for any kind of harassment; (2) suspects killed in officer-involved shootings; (3) complaints filed against officers of the department for police brutality; and (4) the number of people who have died while in custody of officers from the department. The AAG replied noting that the City's request to the AG was not made within the time required by Gov't Code § 552.301, and therefore there is a presumption that everything is public information unless there is a compelling reason to withhold it. And in this instance other law made confidential information regarding drivers' licenses and vehicle registration. Everything else was to be released. Link. (Did the MR-T publish this? I don't remember it. Hmmm, I wonder what kind of ruling the AAG would provide in response to an open record request to the city for a copy of the information submitted to the MR-T pursuant to that open record request. Or for that matter, perhaps an open records request could be submitted directly to the Midland Reporter-Telegram. After all, it is the "Official Newspaper" of the city of Midland -- it's codified! See chapter 9 in the City Code.)
July 16, 2001 -- Former tv reporter Melissa Hendrix made a request to the Ector County Sheriff for " for records relating to an internal investigation conducted by the West Texas Narcotics Enforcement Task Force on three of its officers." The AAG noted that a ruling was not sought within the statutory time period, and therefore the information would be subject to release without a compelling reason. In this case the compelling reason was that other law enforcement agencies were investigating, and the release of the information might interfere with the prosecution of a crime. Link.
January 22, 2008 -- The Lubbock Police Department received a request for a red light camera video, and the AAG ruled that it must be released as the Transportation Code did not make it confidential. Link.
June 5, 2007 -- Eddie Garcia of CBS 7 made a request to the Midland Police Department for information regarding "an internal affairs investigation involving a department officer and the inappropriate use of a dashboard video camera." (Could this be that infamous video of the overweight man pushing a car while trying to hold up his pants?) The internal investigation file had already been released, and the issue concerned the video. The AAG noted that there was a legitimate public interest in the video because it was created by a department officer using department resources, and it was the subject of a department investigation and therefore it couldn't be withheld because of common law privacy even though it could be embarrassing to the person in the video. However, the video showed the license plate number of the vehicle which is protected by other statutes. The MPD lacked the capability to block out the plate number on the video, and therefore the video could not be released. Link. (Pssst. You can see the video on Youtube here and here!)
Had enough? This could go on forever, so I'll turn it over to you to do your own searches. Have fun!