Rock County sheriff changes course on releasing information

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—The Rock County Sheriff's Office will return to a previous practice of releasing names, ages and addresses of people mentioned on accident and arrest reports, Sheriff Bob Spoden said Wednesday.

The sheriff's office stopped releasing the identities of anyone in any report several weeks ago, out of concern that the office could be sued, based on an interpretation of the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act.

Spoden said a recent circuit court decision in a related case in New Richmond made him change course.

The county corporation counsel is still concerned about the potential for lawsuits, but “ultimately it's my decision, and I feel that this (New Richmond) case sets a proper tone, and we need to move forward and let the people know what's going on in their community,” Spoden said.

“When you weigh what we're sacrificing on a what-if, it's my belief we should always err on the side of letting the public know what's going on,” Spoden said.

Spoden said this is especially true in the case of repeat drunken drivers, where people need to know who has been arrested, for their own safety.

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