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Register Lawsuit Seeks Access to Santa Ana Arrest Reports

April 14, 1987|JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writer

A newspaper filed suit Monday to force access to selected arrest reports of people who complained of brutality by Santa Ana police.

Freedom Newspapers Inc., publisher of the Orange County Register, asserts that police are improperly refusing to disclose 107 reports of arrests made between 1983 and the present.

The City of Santa Ana opposed the request for a court order Monday. City Atty. Edward J. Cooper said release of information in the manner sought by the newspaper would be a misdemeanor under state law.

Register lawyer Mark D. Wray characterized Cooper's position as "absurd."

"They won't give us what they know, and what they admit is a public record," Wray said. "It's pretty absurd."

The records sought are arrest reports of 107 persons "who have filed complaints against the police for brutality in the last several years," Wray said.

"I'm telling them it's in violation of the penal code to give access to those records," Cooper said. The Register has requested access to the files by case number assigned by the Police Department, Cooper said. The newspaper, which has provided dates and names of persons arrested, has asked police to use a local index to find the case number and locate the file.

But information derived from that index, basically a list of histories reflecting local criminal and arrest records, cannot be released under penalty of law, Cooper said.

Two years ago, the city and the Register settled another legal dispute over access to police reports. Cooper said the department agreed to allow free public access to the cover pages of all police reports for 30 days.

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