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Concord police deny ‘Monitor’s’ records requests on St. Paul’s School

Monitor staff
Published: 7/21/2017 11:57:08 PM

Concord police files requested by the Monitor two months ago are being withheld because of a criminal investigation launched last week by the attorney general into St. Paul’s School.

Concord police Chief Bradley Osgood said in a letter Thursday that the documents are now exempt from disclosure under New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law in light of the attorney general’s probe into how the elite boarding school responded to cases of sexual misconduct over several decades.

Previously, Osgood said the city needed approximately 60 days to fulfill the Monitor’s May 25 request for all calls for service to St. Paul’s School, and all related offense reports referencing assault crimes at the institution, dating back to 2007. The newspaper also requested all police reports on now-closed sexual assault investigations during the same time frame.

The Monitor filed a second Right-to-Know request June 27 requesting the same type of information and documentation from 2007 to 1987. Police acknowledged receipt of the request, but had not indicated a time frame for completion.

Police logs previously provided to the Monitor show police responded to nearly 1,000 calls for service to the school between April 1991 and June of this year. Roughly three dozen of those calls were for sex-related crimes or assaults.

In denying the records requests, Osgood wrote that “governmental records held by a law enforcement agency are not subject to disclosure if publicly releasing such document(s) could interfere with an ongoing or prospective criminal investigation.”

However, Osgood has not specifically said how disclosure in this case would impede the attorney general’s investigation. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Monitor has since requested a list of the police records that would be provided under its May 25 and June 27 Right-to-Know requests, but are now being withheld.

In his letter Thursday, Osgood cited the case of Frederick Murray vs. N.H. Division of State Police, a civil lawsuit filed by a father denied police records related to the 2004 disappearance of his daughter. Both Haverhill police and New Hampshire State Police had told Murray that release of law enforcement records would interfere with the ongoing missing persons investigation.

That position was upheld by a superior court judge in 2005. However, the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that law enforcement must show “how disclosure of the requested information could interfere with an ongoing investigation or enforcement proceedings.”

Concord attorney Bill Chapman reiterated that point in an interview Friday, adding that “just because a document is in an investigatory file does not make it exempt under the law.”

In early June, police provided the Monitor with redacted records pertaining to a June 1 call for service to Concord Hospital. A St. Paul’s student said she was sexually assaulted and agreed to go to the hospital for a medical exam, records show.

The Monitor’s May 25 and June 27 Right-to-Know requests are seeking similar information on other reported sexual assaults at St. Paul’s – which police had agreed to provide prior to the attorney general’s announcement July 13.

The criminal probe into St. Paul’s is being carried out in partnership with local and state police, in addition to the Merrimack County attorney. Initially, authorities will focus on whether the school endangered the welfare of children or broke a law that prohibits the obstruction of criminal investigations.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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