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The Daily Tar Heel

Most UNC-system campus police departments follow records law

Campus police departments at UNC-system schools do a decent job complying with federal and state public disclosure laws — with a few notable exceptions.

In honor of Sunshine Week, The Daily Tar Heel decided to evaluate how well campus police departments at public universities around the state follow the federal Clery Act and the N.C. public records law.

Reporters were sent to many schools with simple inquiries:

-Can I see the police log?

-Can you tell me how many sexual assaults there have been on campus this school year?

-Can you give me the names, ages and addresses of all students arrested for driving while impaired on campus in 2009?

According to the statutes, the police log should have been provided immediately, and responses to the second two inquiries given as promptly as possible.

People requesting the information are not required to state a reason for wanting it.

“The public records law reflects the important principles of the public’s right to know about the workings of government,” said Ashley Perkinson, a media law attorney. “Certainly in the area of public safety, the public’s right to know is critical for a safe society.”

Appalachian State University

Officers directed the reporter to a “daily media log” in the reception area, which included incident reports dating back to December. After the inquiry for statistics and names, another officer was brought out. He provided the annual crime report but did not indicate that newer information would be provided.

East Carolina University

Officers provided the police log. They directed the reporter to fill out a police record request online in response to the request for statistics and names. Those reports take at least five days for a response.

N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University

When a reporter asked to see the police log, the officer initially asked for credentials. When the reporter responded that none were needed, the officer laughed and said he was kidding. He was then receptive and helpful. The police log held incident reports dating back to January. The officers said they did not have the information regarding the inquiry for statistics and names and directed the reporter to somebody else, who was not available.

N.C. Central University

Officers first did not know what the police log was and asked who the reporter was and who he represented. When the reporter responded that he simply wanted to view public information, the officer was cordial and responsive. The officer provided a box of incident reports dating back to January. The reporter was directed to a lieutenant for statistics and names, but that officer would not be in until the next day.

N.C. State University

Nobody was available to talk face-to-face in the office, but a phone was available for service. The officer who responded said no paper copy of the daily crime log was maintained but that it was available online. The Web site maintains incident reports for the last 60 days. No computer terminal was available to access records. The request for statistics and names was directed to a voice mail. A message left there was not returned.

UNC-Chapel Hill

The police log was immediately available at the reception desk, which contained incident and arrest reports going back to mid-February. A larger list of incidents is available online. Incident reports and arrest reports could then be pulled in person immediately. After the request for statistics and names, the official called the public information officer for help. The officer directed the reporter online. The department official then showed the reporter how to access all the online information.


The officers were hostile to all requests, directing the reporter to the department’s Web site. The site does contain a daily crime log with incident reports, arrest reports and the annual report, but does not make more detailed statistics available.


When a reporter asked to see the log, the officer first asked what for and who the reporter was, implying there needed to be a reason to see the log. The officer then said the reporter couldn’t see the log because it had names on it and the information was confidential. The officer responded to the inquiry for statistics and names by saying the information was confidential. When the reporter said that she was under the impression the information was a matter of public record, the officer got defensive and again asked why she wanted to see the records. He then said on-campus violations were confidential and that all names are turned over to the campus judicial system. He said the reporter could find the police log without names online. The site has a list of the type of incident reported, the location and the time reported.

Chelsea Bailey, Andrew Dunn, Zachary Dunn, Emily Gregory, Samantha Hughes and Shannon Rodenheiser contributed reporting.


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