In Virginia, city officials in Alexandria have released the 911 call in the Ruthanne Lodato murder. But police now say that was a mistake and they don't want the public to hear it.
Alexandria police officials say the city attorney's office did not consult them when they received a Freedom of Information Act request for the audio of the 911 call from The Washington Post. If the city attorney had called police, according to spokeswoman Crystal Nosal, they would have instructed the city officials to withhold the audio using an exemption that allows police to shield information from the public.
"It was a clerical error that the 911 call was released, and we didn't waive the privileges under FOIA so they are not going to release it again," she says.
Alexandria police often withhold basic documents and information in all cases, regardless of what the case is about and whether it is open or closed. Emily Grannis with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press says the department is using its power to withhold information too broadly.
"This sort of information should be public by default, and particularly in this situation where they have already released the tape. There really cannot be a justification for withholding it from future requesters," she says.
But police don't need a justification because the law is on their side, allowing them to shield the public from basic information available in other states. It's part of the reason why the State Integrity Investigation gave Virginia a failing grade for transparency and said the commonwealth was at risk of corruption.