D.C. university police asked to promise not to disclose campus crime information

WASHINGTON, D.C. — University of theDistrict of Columbia administrators are asking members of its police force tosign a confidentiality agreement that would prevent officers from disclosingmany police records, including crime reports, to the media and thepublic. ”What we’re trying to attempt is to make sure thepeople working in our campus safety and emergency management office are aware ofour policy with the release of sensitive information,” said MichaelAndrews, communications director for UDC, a public university.Andrewssaid examples of documents containing such ”sensitive information”that officers deal with regularly include crime reports and officer dutyrosters.According to the agreement, ”In general, all recordsrelated to university business or university personnel, whether received,disseminated, generated, or maintained by the Department of Public Safety andEmergency Management will be considered confidential bynature.”Those opposed to the confidentiality agreement believe itcould infringe on whistleblower’s rights and the media’s ability toreport on crimes.Andrews said the university requires mediaorganizations to file an open-records request to obtain documents such as crimereports. He said the confidentiality agreement would not interfere with themedia’s ability to report on crime at UDC.Andrews said signing theagreement is optional and its creation did not stem from a specific incident. Hesaid officers will not be punished for refusing to sign the agreement and thereare no incentives for officers that do sign theagreement.”We’re not saying that we have a problemhere,” Andrews said. ”But it’s what we consider a proactiveaction and it gives us an opportunity to have a more secure security net aroundthe campus.”Andrews said it is not the intent of the document toinfringe on whistleblower protection acts, but will prevent officers fromspeaking with the media about campus crimes or securityissues.”[The agreement] talks about specific documents and soforth; it doesn’t do anything to restrict anybody’s right to freespeech,” Andrews said. Lou Cannon, president of the D.C. FraternalOrder of Police, an organization representing law enforcement officers, said hehas spoken with officers at the school who are confused about the agreement.”Anytime you sign any type of confidentiality agreement,you’re being prohibited [from speaking], or there are restrictions beingput on your freedom of speech,” Cannon said. He said the agreement couldinfringe on whistleblower protection acts.”It certainlydoesn’t benefit morale,” Cannon said. ”You’requestioning [officers’] integrity. They know that they cannot release lawenforcement sensitive information.”Cannon said such an agreementis unusual. ”I’ve never been asked to sign one,” said Cannon,who has been an officer for 30 years.”There’s certaininformation such as a crime report that’s a public document,” Cannonsaid. ”They’re saying that they can’t release the information Why are you trying to restrict the release ofinformation?”According to a Feb. 23 Washington Timesarticle, about half of the 25 deputized officers have not signed the agreement.In the article, two anonymous officers told The Times they believe theagreement is in response to an incident in which files were taken from a UDCfinance department office and a theft report was filed.The stolen fileswere related to a renovation of the UDC president’s house.Andrewssaid he could not confirm any information from The Times’article.