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Carthage Police Finally Provide Accident Report
August 6, 2008 - It took seven days for the Carthage Police Dept. to provide The Banner with a copy of the accident report for a July 19 collision between a Carthage Volunteer Fire Dept. fire truck and a local motorist.
The Banner first asked Carthage Town Marshal Dan Murphy for a copy of the report on Monday, July 28. Carthage Clerk-Treasurer Linda McMahan said Murphy left a copy of the report with her at town hall this Monday, Aug. 4, and she faxed a copy of it to The Banner that afternoon.
The accident report, which states that it was completed by reserve officer Brad Rogers, the investigating officer, on July 19, has two items of information redacted, or blacked out: the addresses and driver's license numbers of the two drivers involved in the accident, 19-year-old Andrew Duncan and 33-year-old Joshua Miller.
There is nothing on the accident report to indicate who redacted this information. There is also no citation in the four-page report to any Indiana statutes that permit the material to be blacked out.
The Banner attempted to contact Murphy to discuss the accident report and redactions. However, as of Tuesday's news deadline, he had not returned a call to the newspaper.
One person who did return The Banner's call, however, was Steve Key, general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association. Key routinely advises newspapers across the state on issues involving access to public records.
According to Key, state statute specifically says accident reports prepared by law enforcement officers are not confidential, and must be made available for inspection and copying. He also noted that the reports are supposed to contain the address of the owner and operator of each vehicle involved in the accident.
Key said state law does require public agencies to redact social security numbers that appear on public records. However, he said knew of no similar requirement to black out driver's license numbers on accident reports, and said he believed it was not proper.
Roger's report, as provided to The Banner, only includes this brief description of the accident: "DRIVER OF VEHICLE #1 WAS EASTBOUND PULLING OUT OF THE FIRE STATION PARKING LOT AND IMPACTED VEHICLE #2 WHICH WAS SOUTHBOUND ON MAIN STREET." The copy provided to The Banner included no diagram illustrating the accident.
The accident report identifies "Glare" as the primary cause of the accident for the fire truck Duncan was driving. Boyd Duncan, chief of the CVFD and Andrew's father, spoke to The Banner on Monday and confirmed that his son is a member of the fire department.
There are no witnesses to the accident listed in Roger's report. State statute requires accident reports to include, if possible, the names and addresses of witnesses.
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