State committee looks to revamp incident report

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

The uniform incident/offense report utilized by law enforcement in the State of Alabama may soon be getting a facelift.

Danny McKinley, Law Enforcement Coordinator with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and Chairman of the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center (ACJIC) Privacy and Security Committee, said a new document is needed in order to protect crime victims from suffering yet another crime: identity theft.

While McKinley said it has been the Attorney General’s opinion that the front of any incident/offense report is public record, the prevalence of identity theft has caused those in law enforcement to re-think what information should be made available.

“Literally, some agencies have taken to blacking out information they felt was sensitive to the victim,” said McKinley. “In the wrong hands this information can cause problems to a person who’s already been victimized by one crime.”

McKinley said the goal is to create a document that protects the victim, while also allowing the media and private citizens access to important information. Law enforcement officials would also like the ability to deny access to certain portions of the incident/offense report but only if such information could: compromise an ongoing investigation, reveal the exact identity of a victim, or reveal the identity of a witness, informant of undercover officer; and/or otherwise prevent law enforcement officials from carrying out their duty to protect public safety.

“We’re not doing this to shut the press out,” he said. “Me, personally, I’ve had good experience with the media and we recognize that the press is a valuable asset.”

McKinley noted that members of the press have been, and still are, welcome at any committee meeting.

“A lot of the input comes from the various law enforcement agencies,” he said. “But we also welcome input from the press and any concerns they may have.”

Another reason for the revamping of the almost 15-year old form is to allow the state to participate in the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), said McKinley.

McKinley said the new incident/offense report would be presented at the ACJIC Commission meeting on Oct. 25 with the Privacy and Security Committee’s recommendation that it be approved. He said the goal is to implement the form in January 2006.

McKinley said the committee would also recommend that mandatory use of the new form be delayed for 24 months in order to allow agencies a chance to update their documentation procedures and computer software.