Lawsuit filed by student journalists opens door to proposed law

MASSACHUSETTS — Two bills that would open private university police records are pending before the Massachusetts legislature.

State Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios (D-Cambridge) and Rep. Alice K. Wolf (D-Cambridge) introduced similar measures in the state Senate and House that would open records produced by special state police officers employed by educational institutions and hospitals.

Records that would be considered public under the legislation include ”all records, reports or other documentary materials or data made or received” by officers at educational institutions and hospitals.

Robert Ambrogi, executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, said his group supports the legislation.

”We’re always in favor of anything that’s going to open up records to the public and therefore the press,” he said.

Although the bill appeared on the July 11 agenda of the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, Ambrogi does not recall anyone speaking for or against the legislation.

The bills came after the Harvard Crimson filed a lawsuit against Harvard University in 2003 in an effort to gain access to campus police records. The trial court dismissed the newspaper’s lawsuit in March 2004. A hearing in the paper’s appeal to the state’s supreme court should take place in the fall.