A domestic violence incident involving a mayoral candidate is raising some important questions about how police reports are stored and accessed. You can to read the story here.
Greg Brockhouse is running for mayor of San Antonio. In 2009 police were called to an alleged domestic violence incident. Although a police report was written, Brockhouse was never charged. Now reporters are looking for the report and can’t find it. There’s a date, a case number, and a badge number, but no report.
And that raises questions. The San Antonio Express News has investigated the alleged incident and questioned legal experts about police report practices. The experts say that police reports are public records. They don’t disappear unless they’re officially expunged. But Brockhouse was never charged. In San Antonio, reports can’t be expunged (deleted) unless there’s been an arrest.
So here are some questions:
Why wasn’t Brockhouse arrested?
Why was a report written?
Why did it disappear?
The Express News is also concerned about the process for expunging a report. Who decides which police reports are expunged – and how?
Newly elected District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who took office in January and was not a party to any of this, said it’s against the law to even acknowledge an expunction occurred. “My understanding is even if the person didn’t meet the qualifications for an expunction, and wasn’t eligible for one, that if the parties agreed to it, then it could happen and it could get expunged,” he said.
That raises questions about accountability. Should there be a procedure to review whether an expunction was properly and legally accomplished?
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The Brockhouse incident might be a good starting point for other agencies and districts to review their policies. Who decides when a police report should be written? How is that decision made? Is it ever acceptable to remove a police report? Who makes that decision, and how? And should those decisions be subject to review by someone outside the process? If so, who should undertake that review?