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November 16, 2016

By: Annie Ropeik, IPB News

INDIANAPOLIS -The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Notre Dame University and other state private universities can keep police records closed to the public.

The justices say the school’s police were not government entities when ESPN filed the lawsuit in 2014. But as Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports, a recent change in state law means newer records are fair game.

The high court’s decision comes after ESPN sued Notre Dame in 2014 to see police reports involving 275 student athletes. Two lower courts couldn’t agree on a ruling, which sent the case to the state’s supreme court.

The justices ruled that when the suit was filed, under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, Notre Dame police weren’t considered public officials — that they answered to the school’s trustees, not the state, in enforcing the criminal code.

State public access counselor Luke Britt disagrees with the ruling:

“They are exercising a government function, and normally when that happens, they will be considered a state actor for the purposes of other types of oversight considerations,” said Britt.

But he says private school police forces *are* now defined as public agencies, under a state law that took effect in July. That new law doesn’t apply to old arrest or investigation records — including the ones ESPN wanted. But Britt says it will apply to any private university police records from July onward.


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