Student newspaper files lawsuit to gain access to police report

MICHIGAN — Thestudent newspaper at Michigan State University filed alawsuit Friday to gain access to acampus police incident report of an alleged Feb. 23 assault oncampus.

And an attorney representing the student paper said a judgeis scheduled to make a decision on the whether the incident report is publicrecord May 31.

”They enjoy all the same powers and privilegesthat a local police department would, so I think they need to be held to thesame standards,” said Nick Mrozowski, editor in chief of The State News. ”We are justasking them to follow our state’s laws.”

The universitypreviously denied two state Freedom of Information Act requests for the incidentreport made by the student paper, said university spokesman TerryDenbow.

”Our decisions to deny the reporter’s FOIArequest and appeal were based on our belief that we should use available FOIAexceptions to protect the integrity of the criminal process and the safety andprivacy of individuals caught up in that process,” said a May 9statement issued by the university.

Prosecuting attorney Stuart Dunnings sent a letter to campus policeChief Jim Dunlap on May 4 saying the investigation into the alleged assasultwould be compromised if the police reports were released. Dunnings’ letterwas attached to the university’s statement.

Herschel Fink, aDetroit attorney representing the student newspaper, said the university’sreasons for not handing over the incident report are ”bogus” and”not recognized by the law.”

Mrozowski said the allegedassault has generated a lot of controversy on campus and student journalistswant the incident report to more clearly report the facts of thecase.

”It became pretty high profile. We felt like part of ourjob is to sort out the many different stories people were hearing and figure outwhich one was true,” he said. ”One way to do that is to see theincident report.”

In late February, one student and twononstudents allegedly used a handgun to threaten three victims in a campusdormitory, according to anarticle inThe State News. They also pouredgasoline on a victim and threatened to light it, according to thearticle.

”The law says these are public records,” Finksaid. ”Like any good journalist, the newspaper wants to see what theofficial records say. They want to know what the facts are, what happened inthis incident. And they want to write about it. It’s really as simple asthat.”

Mrozowski said he hopes ultimately to be able to havefull access to campus police incident reports.

”If wecan’t find out what the police department has been up to, we aren’tlooking out for our readers,” he said. ”I like to think of it interms of if I had been arrested for something, and I felt I was wronglyarrested, I would want someone to be able to read my report. I wouldn’twant it locked up in a drawersomewhere.”