Phoenix Police to Limit Release of Public Information Based on Anti-Identify-Theft Law

Phoenix police will no longer give the public or news media the date of birth, address, or other personal data of arrested suspects, claiming their lawyers advise the release of such information could violate a state anti-identify-theft law.

However, state records ombudsman Elizabeth Hill tells New Times that such advise probably runs counter to the state public records law. Police departments around the state have been quietly testing the waters for months, holding back info to supposedly avoid violating the law.

The move appears to set up a fight between the news media and the police, because withholding such information will vastly affect the public's right to glean information from police about crime suspects.

For instance, without a date of birth, the Maricopa County jail system will not verify whether a suspect's in custody. And without an address, the public won't know whether arrested people are their neighbors or from Bangladesh. 

The law obviously needs to be tweaked -- and soon, now that a major police department has decided on its own to make government a little less transparent.

You're going to hear more about this one.

Here's the Phoenix police news release in its entirety:


We have been notified by the Phoenix Police Department Legal Unit advisors (our department attorneys) of certain changes in what information we can release to the media and the public. Our legal advisors tell us the City of Phoenix Law Department is basing their decisions on the public policy of protecting personal identifying information as defined in Arizona Revised Statute13-2001.


We wanted to advise you as soon as possible of the changes, a couple of which are going to immediately impact all of us.  These changes are effective immediately.  An official Operations Orders policy change will also be forthcoming in the near future, but the changes are being implemented immediately at the recommendation of our legal unit and the City Law Department.  As always, please feel free to express concerns to us.  However, any official questions need to be directed to the City of Phoenix Law Department.


Please note that the public records request protocol has NOT changed.  You will still use the email address, [email protected]


Our Legal Unit and the City of Phoenix Law Department have recommended, and PhoenixPolice management has immediately adopted the following release of information protocol:


Dates of birth of suspects (even if booked into jail) and victims (even if deceased) will not be released to the media or the public.  No addresses, phone numbers, or social security numbers will be released for victims or suspects.  We will release names of suspects with ages and race only.  Victim names will not be released. We will release victim age and race only.  If a victim is deceased we will release name, age, and race only once next of kin has been notified.


Please advise all of your staffs of these changes. 



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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.