City will appeal court's ruling to turn over gang map to Blade

7/18/2013
BLADE STAFF

Mayor Mike Bell
Mayor Mike Bell

The city of Toledo has been ordered by a state appeals court to turn over to The Blade the gang map created by the police department.

The newspaper had requested the document in July, 2012, but the city denied the request on the grounds that the “gang map is exempt from disclosure because it is a confidential law enforcement investigatory record ...” that could interfere with investigation efforts.

Judges Mark Pietrykowski and Thomas Osowik, of the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo, voted to release the map. A dissenting vote was cast by Judge Stephen Yarbrough.

RELATED CONTENT: Read the full ruling

BATTLE LINES: Gangs of Toledo

 

City spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said the city would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

“Accordingly, we consider this to be pending litigation and those will be all the comments at this time,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

“The mayor has made many decision over the course of his administration that were in the best interest of the community and the best interest of public safety,” she said. “It would be hard to argue that they were politically convenient decisions."

In late April, The Blade published its own gang map created with the assistance of active and former gang members as part of a four-day series.

The appeals court, noting testimony from members of the city’s own police department, decided in its 2 to 1 vote that the map was not exempt from public disclosure.

During testimony, Officer Bill Noon described the map and testified that he created it based on information gathered from confidential informants, surveillance, crime reports, field interviews, and felony crime logs.

He further stated, however, that there is nothing on the map that would reveal a particular investigative technique that led to that information, or that would reveal any source of information. Other than revealing that the police department knows where the gangs operate, Officer Noon stated that nothing on the map identifies any location that the Toledo Police Department is watching.

“Accordingly, it is undisputed from the record that release of the map would not reveal any specific confidential investigatory technique or procedure,” the appeals court noted during its ruling on July 12.

Toledo attorney Fritz Byers, The Blade’s counsel in open government cases, said it was regrettable that the Bell administration resisted The Blade’s efforts to obtain the map on behalf of the public but also gratifying to have confirmation that the resistance was contrary to law.

"The Court of Appeals decision reflects and serves both the essential legal principles of open government that are reflected in Ohio’s public-records laws and the substantial public interest in being informed not only of the realities of life in our city but also the wisdom and soundness of the city’s assessments about how to deploy its resources," Mr. Byers said.