Release of theater shooting emergency response report took too long, redactions excessive

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

The 188-page report on the emergency response to the July 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting, released by the court this morning, contains vital information and recommendations that could improve the way police, sheriffs, EMTs and fire officials everywhere communicate and coordinate with one another during future ”active shooter” incidents.

We question, however, why the public had to wait so long to see the report and why certain already well-publicized names and details have been X’d out.

The report, which cost Aurora $250,000, was provided to the city in April. But the city cited a gag order in the case against defendant James Holmes as a reason not to make the report public.

redactionsIn fact, the gag order on criminal justice agencies involved in the prosecution did not apply to the city administration. Prosecutors and defense attorneys also objected to the report’s release.

A judge in August ordered the release of a version that “redacted those portions…which the Court feels would prejudice the Court’s ability to conduct a fair trial in the Criminal Case” against Holmes, who is scheduled for trial in December. But the redactions oddly include the names of Holmes and various law enforcement officials.

“This publicly-funded report, which provides a careful and critical evaluation of the government’s response to the worst civilian shooting in U.S. history, should not have taken six months to be released to the public,” said CFOIC President Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment and media-law attorney. “Also, the extent of the redactions – including the name of the admitted shooter and CU Police Chief Doug Abraham, for example – is unquestionably excessive.”

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