After a Soldier Died by Suicide, His Family Was Denied the Police Records. Texas Law Makes That Possible.

Texas public records law allows officials to withhold police records if no one was convicted in a case. At least one city has used this rule to deny the release of suicide records. A new bill aims to close this loophole.

by Vianna Davila, ProPublica, May 9, 2023

Killeen officials denied the soldier’s mother the records by citing an exception in Texas’ public records law that allows law enforcement agencies to withhold or heavily redact police reports if a person has not been convicted or received deferred adjudication in the case. The rule was established in 1997 as a way to protect the privacy of people who were accused of or arrested for criminal activity that’s never substantiated.

However, law enforcement agencies have often used the exception, sometimes referred to as the dead suspects loophole, to withhold information in cases in which suspects die in police custody or at the hands of police officers. KXAN-TV, an Austin television station, published an extensive series on the practice in 2018.

Texas Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody, who is trying to pass a bill this legislative session that would close the loophole, told the news organizations the use of the exception in the case of a service member’s suicide “is so far outside the contemplated exception, that I find it odd that it’s even raised.”

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