Police Test Scores And Rankings Should Have Been Released To Media

The Times Leader is a daily newspaper in northeast Pennsylvania. In January 2005, the Times Leader sent a letter to the City of Hazleton requesting information regarding the names of police officer candidates on the City’s current Civil Service Commission list, their ranks, test scores, and the date the list went into effect. When the City refused to release most of the data requested by the Times Leader, the newspaper sued under Pennsylvania’s right-to-know law.
The City argued that the requested information was not a “public record” under the law because the information would prejudice or impair officers’ individual reputations or personal security. The Court disagreed, finding that “the release of the scores is in accord with other statutes that mandate that a candidate’s test scores be made public. This evidences the intent of the General Assembly that test scores are not the type of records which would operate to the prejudice of a person’s privacy.”

The City also argued that the rules of its Civil Service Commission forbade the release of “examination materials.” The Court was skeptical of such an argument on two fronts: “Assuming that Commission rules and regulations can make a public record, as defined by the right-to-know law, not a public record, the Commission’s rules and regulations upon which it relies state only that ‘examination material’ shall be confidential and not open for public inspection. While there is no definition of ‘examination material,’ by its very terms that only includes everything utilized in arriving at the candidates’ test scores, but not the scores themselves.”

Times Leader v. Hazleton Police Civil Service Commission, 2006 WL 2883111 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2006).

This article appears in the December 2006 issue