Private call?: Information on a 911 emergency must stay public

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A state lawmaker is trying to chip away at Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law. If Delaware County Republican Rep. Joe Hackett has his way, the rights of the public to get information and of police, fire and emergency medical responders to release it will be subject to new restrictions.

House Bill 1041 is a repeat of a measure that passed the House but died in the Senate during the last legislative session. It would require a court order before agencies could release names, phone numbers, addresses or locations associated with individual calls to 911 centers.

That differs from the status quo in two significant ways. First, such information now is presumed to be public, details that long have been included in police blotters, court records and police scanner calls. Current law already contains specific public safety exceptions. Rep. Hackett's bill excludes too much information from public view.

Second, current law gives the discretion to release 911 recordings or transcripts both to judges and to 911 centers and responder agencies. The bill would tighten the law so only judges could make those decisions.

The Right to Know law is far from perfect, but Rep. Hackett's bill would make matters worse, to the detriment of the public and the agencies that deliver emergency services.

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