Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clery Act: Campus crime logs required for public, private universities, colleges receiving federal funding

Oklahoma's Open Records Act doesn't require state universities and colleges to keep a public log of reported crimes.

But a federal law does.

The Clery Act requires public and private post-secondary schools that receive federal funding and maintain a police or security department to keep a daily crime log that is open to public inspection and is readily understandable. (34 CFR 668.46(f)) (20 USC §1092(f)(4)(A)(B))

The statute also imposes a number of important conditions on those crime logs that differ from the Open Records Act's requirements for such records, including:
  • Crimes must be added to the log within two business days of their initial report to the campus police or the campus security department.
    • This time requirement also covers any addition to an entry or change in the disposition of a complaint. For example, federal education officials note, if the disposition of a crime is "pending" and an arrest is made later, the school has two business days to update the disposition on the original entry.
    • Schools aren’t required to update dispositions for crimes more than 60 days old.
    • A business day is defined Monday through Friday, except for days when the school is closed.
    • The only exceptions to this rule are if the disclosure is prohibited by law or would jeopardize the confidentiality of the victim.

  • The log is required to include the nature, date (occurred and reported), time and general location of each crime, and its disposition if known.
    • The description of the location must mean something to the campus community.
    • But the location must not lead to identification of the victim.

  • Victims' names must be redacted. This requirement supersedes the state Open Records Act, which has no such provision.

  • Schools may temporarily withhold information only if there is clear and convincing evidence that the release of information would:
      • Jeopardize an ongoing investigation;
      • Jeopardize the safety of an individual;
      • Cause a suspect to flee or evade detection; or
      • Result in the destruction of evidence.

    • The school may withhold only the information that could cause the adverse effect.
    • That information must be disclosed once the adverse effect is no longer likely.
    • The person deciding to withhold the information should document the reason.

  • The crime log for the most-recent 60 days must be open to public inspection, upon request, during normal business hours.
    • Schools may not require a written request.
    • Anyone may have access to the log, including media not associated with the school.
    • Logs older than 60 days must be made available for inspection within two business days of the request.
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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