12.00.020     RELEASING DEPARTMENT INFORMATION

Employees will not release confidential information outside the Department except as provided in this policy or as required by law or competent authority.

The first officers to arrive at the scene of an emergency situation shall quickly determine the scope of the situation. When necessary, notifications should be made to the Command Staff, Public Information Officer (PIO), government agencies, and public utilities.

Records staff is responsible for releasing agency records. The procedures for the release of agency records are mandated by case law and RCW Chapter 10.97, RCW Chapter 42.56, RCW Chapter 13.50, and RCW Chapter 46.52.

Release of Information to the Public and the Media (CALEA 54.1.1)

Authorized members of the Department will release information to the public and the media as permitted by case law and statutes. Release may be appropriate if information to the public is essential to the apprehension of a suspect or where other public interests will be served. The PIO shall assist in the coordination and release of information concerning victims, witnesses, and suspects that is appropriate, permitted by case law and statutes, and will not jeopardize the investigation.

The PIO will develop procedures for coordinating the release of information when other public agencies are involved.  This may include coordinating with other partners such as state and federal law enforcement.

Open Active Investigations

Only the PIO may release information. The decision of when and what to release shall be made in consultation with the Investigator and his/her supervisor.

The authorization to release such information will be made only after being reviewed by the Incident Commander or Investigations Major or in consultation with the Police Legal Advisor.

If the arrested person is in law enforcement or works for a governmental agency, the Chain of Command should be notified. The Chief of Police of the arrestee's agency may be notified by the person designated by the Chain of Command. The information should also be forwarded to the Office of Professional Standards. Governmental employers should not be informed other than as authorized above.

If the case is potentially high profile, the Chain of Command should be notified. Private employers should not be notified unless at the request of the employee.

Closed Investigations and or Case referred to the Prosecutor The PIO and Records staff may release information.

Restrictions during Investigation and Prosecution

Employees will respond to public and media inquiries in a courteous, professional manner. If an employee is confronted with questions or probes of a confidential nature, the matter will be referred to a supervisor or the PIO.

Employees will not disclose to the public or media the following information:

 a)  Opinions about a defendant's character, guilt or innocence

b)  Admissions, confessions or the contents of a statement or alibi attributable to a defendant

 c)   Opinions about the results of investigative procedures, such as fingerprints, polygraph examinations,  ballistic tests, or laboratory tests

  d)    Statements concerning the credibility of anticipated testimony of prospective witnesses

 e)   Opinions concerning evidence or argument in the case whether or not it is anticipated that such evidence argument will be   used at trial

Photographs

The public and media may take photographs of a detained person in a public place, but the detained person will not be posed by an officer for the benefit of the public or media photographers.

With the permission of a supervisor, and/or the PIO, booking photographs may be released only to assist in conducting criminal investigations. Booking photographs may not be released for crime prevention or other publicity.

Requests for information about on-going incidents should be directed to the PIO. If the PIO is unavailable, inquiries should be directed to the Watch Commander.

Crime Map Information

The Citys website has a Crime map of daily crime activity in the City for the public and the media to access.

Public and Media Access to Incidents (CALEA 54.1.3)

Entrance to any area where evidence could be destroyed or compromised will be denied to any unauthorized personnel, including the media.

Access will be allowed if the evidence and scene are protected and entry will not interfere with the investigation.

If the scene is on private property, access is not allowed without the approval of the property owner.

In incidents where a perimeter has been established, such as barricaded person, a major fire, or a natural disaster, access will be at the direction of the on-scene Commander. In no case will access be allowed if it compromises the safety of personnel, integrity of the crime scene, or safety of the individuals.

The Department and the City of Bellevue accept no responsibility for media use or publication of information disclosed by the Department.  Members of the media bear all responsibility for its proper publication to avoid unnecessary harm or embarrassment to victims or other innocent parties.