Of all the medical emergencies that Foxborough police responded to during the last seven days, only one deserved a “modification’’ to the official police log by a lieutenant.
It also happened to be the only incident involving a New England Patriots defensive end.
The apparent deletion of information seems to be a clear violation of the state’s public records law, according to public records experts.
Official police logs show Chandler Jones arrived at the Foxborough Police department on Chestnut St. at 7:42 a.m. Sunday morning. Fire personnel responded for an “evaluation,’’ a dispatcher typed in at 7:52 a.m.
But more than two days later, on Tuesday at 3:02 p.m., Lt. Allan L. Haskell “modified’’ the log. What he changed isn’t known, and Foxborough police have refused to release that information.
Haskell told Boston.com on Wednesday that a “dispatch error’’ inadvertently included a medical diagnosis. He said the modification wasn’t a deletion of information but rather information was “removed.’’
The Boston Herald reported that the modification was made just after they called police about the incident involving Chandler.
Public police logs are the most basic of all information police departments keep, said Peter Caruso II, an attorney specializing in public records with the firm Prince Lobel. They are supposed to be available to any member of the public at any time.
Caruso said at best, the removal of information destroys the transparency the public is entitled to. At worst, it plants the seed that there’s some kind of “nefarious activity or conspiracy going on.’’
“If any public official or any custodian of a public document is deleting and removing information from that public record, that is a gross violation of not only the public records law, but the public trust,’’ he said.
Foxborough Town Manager William G. Keegan, Jr. said in a faxed statement Wednesday that the town is reviewing records related to the Jones’ incident with legal counsel.
“We fully appreciate and understand the need for transparency and full disclosure, as required by law, with respect to public safety actions such as this,’’ the statement read. “However, we are likewise, well aware of and are bound by law to secure individual rights and privileges involved when medical response actions taken by the Town’s public safety personnel.’’
Foxborough police responded to 34 medical emergencies over the last week, including the one involving Jones, according to the public log. Only four others were modified, and all were changed by a dispatcher minutes after the incident.
Only Jones’ emergency was modified by a lieutenant, and it was the only record changed days after the fact. Haskell said there was nothing “sinister’’ about the change, and no special treatment was given to this one case.
“I don’t see it that way,’’ Haskell said. “We make modifications all the time.’’
Police are allowed to redact information, so long as they cite the reason why. In fact, in the police logs provided for Sunday, information about two other calls was redacted — one involving a child, and the other a domestic dispute.
But Jones’ incident wasn’t just redacted. The information in question is gone, with no indication to the public of what was taken out or why.
After Jones came into the police station, he was taken to Norwood Hospital at 8:06 a.m., according to the log. An officer went to his Foxborough home to “secure the residence.’’ Dispatch audio released by the department indicates Chandler was involved with a “Class D substance,’’ which refers to marijuana.
Jones was at practice Monday. The Patriots released a statement that said, “Chandler Jones was admitted to the hospital on Sunday and released later that day. He reported to work on time Monday morning and has participated in all meetings and practices since then.’’
No report was generated along with Jones’ medical emergency. Of the 34 medical emergency logs Boston.com reviewed, only one generated a report. Boston.com requested that report to see why that incident rose to the level of an official report, but was told that it wouldn’t be available Wednesday.
Foxborough police chief Edward T. O’Leary, who commands policing operations during large events at Gillette Stadium, has not responded to a message seeking comment.
Foxborough Town Manager William Keegan released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
As many of you know, on the morning of January 10, 2016, Town of Foxborough Police, Fire/ EMT officers engaged in a medical assistance response at the Foxborough Police Station. Due to the medical nature of this response action and the clear applicability of federal and state laws and regulations which secure the privacy rights of individuals to whom the Town provides medical assistance and prohibit the unauthorized dissemination or release of sensitive medical information, we are currently in the process of assembling and reviewing all documents and information in the Town’s possession relative to this response action and we will be discussing the same with legal counsel prior to releasing any documents or further statements in this regard. We fully appreciate and understand the need for transparency and full disclosure, as required by law, with respect to public safety actions such as this; however, we are likewise, well aware of and are bound by law to secure individual rights and privileges involved when medical response actions taken by the Town’s public safety personnel. We have received formal requests for the release of public records relating to this matter from the media, all of which will be addressed in a timely and appropriate manner once a full review of all such records is completed. A more detailed statement pertaining to this medical assistance response will be provided as soon as possible.
Update Jan. 14: Keegan’s executive assistant responded to questions about the deletion on the public log:
The allegation of a “violation’’ of the public records statute is completely unfounded. There was one correction made to the log by deleting one word, which, upon review, was determined to constitute a medical diagnosis which police officers had no qualification to make and, thus, was deemed inappropriate. That word was replaced by a more generic descriptive term for the evaluation undertaken by Town responders.
Read the police log on Chandler Jones’ medical emergency: