The McHenry County Sheriff’s Department has lost an April 29, 2010, appeal filed by McHenry County Blog to obtain SWAT training records for Deputy Eric Woods.
Under the decision, received yesterday from Assistant Public Access Counselor Matthew C. Rogina, the Sheriff’s Office must provide “the dates and times that Deputy Woods was present at SWAT training sessions.”
The opinion continues,
“The Sheriff has not demonstrated a basis as to how the disclosure of the previously scheduled SWAT team practices of Deputy Woods could pose a security risk.”
Woods is the deputy that was injured at the shooting range. The handling of that incident was an issue raised by Democrat Mike Mahon in the his unsuccessful fall campaign against Keith Nygren. Nygren had characterized the wounds as “road rash.”
The Sheriff’s Department claimed exemption from revealing the scheduling information contending its release would
- “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person,”
- reveal “vulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies or plans that are designed to identify, prevent or respond to potential attacks upon a community’ s population or systems, facilities, or installations, the destruction or contamination of which would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the community…”
The text of the full decision follows. You can see the original here.
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
STATE OF ILLINOIS
February 14, 2011
Ms. Jan Weech
Freedom of Information Act Officer
McHenry County Sheriff’s Office
Mr. Cal Skinner
RE: FOIA Request’ for Review’ 2010 PAC-7125.
Dear Ms. Weech and Mr. Skinner:
We have received a request for Review Lot Act (FOIA) request submitted to the McHenry County Sheriff by Mr. Skinner and the responsive documents submitted to the Office of Public Counselor by the Sheriff.
In Mr. Skinner’ s April 29, 2010, Request for Review, he indicates that on April 8 he submitted a FOIA request to the Sheriff seeking a copy of assignment-sheets for his shift, which show Eric Woods’ previous SWAT Team practices.
On April 13, 2010, the Sheriff denied Mr. Skinner’ s request for information. In its denial letter, the Sheriff asserted that the records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to the following exemptions:
- Section 7( 1)( d)( vi) of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/ 7( 1)( d)( vi)) which exempts from inspection and copying information that would “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person,” and
- Section 7( 1)( v) of FOIA ( 5 ILCS 140/ 7( 1)( v)) which exempts from inspection and copying “vulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies or plans that are designed to identify, prevent or respond to potential attacks upon a community’ s population or systems, facilities, or installations, the destruction or contamination of which would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the community, but only to the extent that disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of the measures or the safety of the personnel who implement them or the public. Information exempt under this item may include such things as details pertaining to the mobilization or deployment of personnel or equipment, to the operation of communication systems or protocols, or to tactical operations.”
This Office initiated further review of this matter on May 10, 2010 and requested that the Sheriff provide us with a written explanation as to why Section 7( 1)( v) and Section 7( 1)( d)( vi) exempts the documents from disclosure. The Sheriff submitted its response on May 17, 2010 together with an affidavit from Lt. John Miller that clarified that the ” only documents that the McHenry County Sheriff’ s Department maintains regarding SWAT Team practices are the shift schedules.” The Sheriff provided us a representative sample of those schedules on February 8, 2011.
Section 3( a) of FOIA ( 5 ILCS 140/ 3( a)) provides that “[ e] ach public body shall make available to any person for inspection or copying all public records, except as otherwise provided in Section 7 of this Act.” Under Section 1. 2 of FOIA ( 5 ILCS 140/ 1. 2), “[ a] ll records in the custody of a public body are presumed to be open to inspection and copying.” This section further states that “[ a] ny public body that asserts that a record is exempt from disclosure has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it is exempt
In its May 17, 2010 letter, the Sheriff states the following with regard to the disclosure of the shift schedules:
The only records/ documents that we maintain that show the dates of Deputy Wood’ s SWAT Team practices are our monthly department shift assignment schedules ( see the attached affidavit). The shift schedules are for internal department use and are not shared with the general public. These schedules show the pattern which we assign our squads to specific areas, how we over lap our assignments, and the times of day in which we rotate our squads in and out of our patrol areas, showing when and where a Deputy may possibly be without the close back up assistance of another squad. If the general public were aware of these unique technique details we feel that it would not only put a Deputy at risk but also the public. Crimes could be planned around disclosure of this specific information.
The Sheriff further notes:
The release of these schedules will cause this Department to immediately change all of our schedules and create a different pattern unique from the one presently used.
Although Mr. Skinner’ s request is somewhat ambiguous, we interpret it as a request for the dates and times that Deputy Woods was present at SWAT training sessions. According to the Sheriff, this information is contained only in shift schedules of the type we have examined, which includes shift information and assignments for a number of deputies. Because Mr. Skinner seeks a very narrow set of records regarding only Deputy Woods, it is the finding of this Office that disclosure of this specific information would not fall within the scope of Section 7( 1)( d)( vi) and Section 7( 1)( d)( v). The Sheriff has not demonstrated a basis as to how the disclosure of the previously scheduled SWAT team practices of Deputy Woods could pose a security risk. However, to the extent that the shift schedules contain information regarding any other assignments for Deputy Woods, and any information regarding the schedules or assignments of any deputies other than Deputy Woods, that information may be redacted from the schedules.
Accordingly, we find that the Sheriff has not met its burden pursuant to Section 7( 1)( d)( vi) or Section 7( 1)( v) and must disclose the shift schedules to Mr. Skinner, subject to the redactions noted above.
Should you have any questions, please contact me at ( 312) 814- 5383. This correspondence shall serve to close this file.
Matthew C. Rogina
Assistant Public Access Counselor
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