By Michael Pope
Police agencies in Virginia routinely deny access to incident reports, regardless of whether the case is open or closed. That bothers Roanoke state Senator John Edwards, who introduced a bill earlier this year to make documents available in cases that are no longer being investigated.
"Once a case is over, absent a compelling reason to keep it secret, it ought to generally be released," says Edwards.
But since that's not the way it works now, Edwards is taking his case to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, which will consider the issue next week. The legislature often follows the council's advice.
Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Dana Schrad says her organization might end up supporting Edwards' bill.
"We are always very open to discussing ways in which we can better accommodate the interests and the needs of the public as long as we don't compromise criminal investigations or the safety of individuals," says Schrad.
One compromise the senator is willing to offer would be to let people who want documents make their case before a judge.