U. can withhold jurisdiction map but must disclose statement of responsibilities, says Mercer County Superior Court| Jul 11, 2016
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled on July 6 that the University must disclose a statement of responsibilities between the University’s Department of Public Safety and the Princeton Police Department to Planet Princeton under the Open Public Records Act.
However, Jacobson also ruled that the University has the right to withhold a jurisdictional response map, which details emergency response protocols between the Princeton Police Department and the University’s Department of Public Safety.
The case was filed against the University by Krystal Knapp, the founder of the local news organization Planet Princeton, after she sought to access copies of the operating agreements between the Princeton Police Department and the University’s Department of Public Safety. The two departments are jointly in charge of the University’s and the town of Princeton’s safety. Their operating agreements detail responsibilities for both departments and a map indicating the jurisdictions of each department.
Walter Luers, the attorney who represented Knapp, noted that both Knapp and the readers of Planet Princeton wanted to see the operating agreements.
“Krystal wanted these agreements, the maps and the schedules so that people can know what the division of labor is,” Luers said. “You should know where someone’s jurisdiction ends and where it begins, and who’s responsible for what.”
Knapp did not respond to a request for comment.
Princeton’s Municipal Clerk, Linda McDermott, initially denied Knapp’s request for the agreements, so Knapp sued the town in Superior Court. Princeton then agreed to release the materials, but the University stepped in and withheld the jurisdictional response map and other sensitive material.
Luers did note that a couple of weeks after the suit was filed, the University released some of the materials along with a redacted schedule of responsibilities, but withheld the jurisdictional maps. Knapp and the University engaged in negotiations, but were unable to come to an agreement.
Executive Director of Public Safety Paul Ominsky deferred comment to Assistant Vice President for Communications Daniel Day.
“The map and the statement of responsibilities include tactical and strategic information about police procedures in emergencies and other situations,” Day said. “We wanted to keep this information exempt from disclosure to minimize risk and better protect the safety of the community.”
In her ruling, Jacobson agreed with the University that the jurisdictional response map should not be released, since it could create a security risk if it fell into the wrong hands. However, she noted that the list of responsibilities would not pose a threat and said the University should release the schedule.
Luers said that he is satisfied with the decision, noting that Knapp received most of what she had wanted.
Day added that the court has given the parties two weeks to decide whether to appeal.