Obtaining Copies of Police Reports
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law intended to open the government to all citizens by guaranteeing access to governmental records in whatever form they are maintained. Like any law of this nature, this act strikes a balance between access and privacy interests.
This act is not intended to be used to violate individual privacy, nor for the purpose of furthering a commercial enterprise, or to disrupt the duly-undertaken work of any public body independent of the fulfillment of any of the fore-mentioned rights of the people to access to information.
The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office will comply with FOIA in order to ensure the public's access to public information while also protecting the confidentiality of those documents required to be maintained as confidential.
Click Here to view the text of the Freedom of Information Act as enacted into law in Illinois.
Public Record Requests
All Requests to inspect "public records" (as that term is defined in the FOIA) shall be in writing on forms supplied at no charge by this office. You can pick up the form in person, have it mailed to you, or download it from our web site on the internet. This completed form shall be filed in the Records Office located on the 1st floor of the Criminal Justice Center during normal business hours. Forms can be mailed using the US post office first class mail, but the records must be inspected in person.
As required by the FOIA, the requestor will be required to certify that he/she/it is not making the FOIA request to violate personal privacy, nor to further any commercial enterprise nor to disrupt the duly-undertaken work of the Sheriff's Office independent of the fulfillment of any of the rights stated in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act of the people to access to information. At the time these records are inspected, the requesting party may request any or all of the documents to be copied which will be done while you wait.
We may request an additional seven (7) working days to respond to your FOIA request for any of the reasons listed in the FOIA. You will be notified in writing by first-class mail of the extension and the reason for it. The response to any such FOIA request will be in writing and signed by the FOIA Officer. The response will be mailed to the requestor by first class mail, within seven (7) working days after this office's receipt of the FOIA request, unless said deadline to respond is extended as authorized by the FOIA.
There is no fee to inspect any "public record" as the term is defined in the FOIA. The Sheriff has waved the fee for copying of black and white police reports so long as the request is for minimal copies. If the request is for a substantial amount of copying, we will charge actual cost as allowed by the FOIA which we have computed to be twenty-five cents ($0.25) per page for legal- or letter-size black and white. Color and/or any other type of document duplication will be charged accordingly. Fees for copies must be paid prior to receiving them.
There is no charge for search time in order to locate the requested documents.
All requests to inspect and/or copy any documents declared as exempt under the FOIA will be denied. The general reason(s) for the denial and the applicable statutory section authorizing such denial will be specifically stated in our letter of denial to the request. Some of the more common reasons for denying a request include:
- All requests for copies of documents or pages that contain copyrighted materials will be denied, unless the requestor can first present written proof of permission to make such copies from the current holder of said copyright.
- FOIA requests will be denied which merely asks questions and do not specifically request a record to inspect or copy a "public record" as that term is defined in the FOIA.
- If the FOIA Officer believes a FOIA request to be unduly burdensome, before denying said request we will inform the requestor in writing by first class mail of such determination and shall offer the requestor an opportunity to confer with the FOIA Officer in an effort to narrow the FOIA request. If the requestor contacts the FOIA Officer within seven (7) days of the date listed on the letter, the request shall not be denied or granted until after the Requestor and the FOIA Officer discuss, either in person or by telephone, the narrowing of the scope of said request. If the requestor fails to contact the FOIA Officer within the seven (7) day period or fails to appear (in person or by telephone) for the scheduled meeting, then the FOIA Officer will deny the FOIA request.
- Copies of accident reports involving crimes or deaths are subject to the rules cited under the Freedom of Information Act (Illinois Compiled Statutes, 5 ILCS 140/1-7).
Requests that are denied may be appealed to the Sheriff of Winnebago County. The requestor shall complete a written Notice of Appeal Form, which is available at no charge, and file the same with the FOIA Officer, who will forward it to the Sheriff. The Sheriff shall decide the appeal and may consult with the State's Attorney's Office. The Sheriff then sends a decision on the appeal to the requestor in writing by first-class mail. Requests for special information (i.e, crime or arrest statistics within specific geographical areas) will be accommodated if possible to do so, in accordance with the FOIA.
Common Reasons which cause an FOIA Request to be denied
- The report is pending police investigation.
- The report is pending court proceedings.
- The report contains juvenile information (persons under 17 years of age) prohibited by the Juvenile Court Act.
- The request is not asking for a specific document.
- Release of the report would violate someone's individual privacy.
- The request is to further a commercial enterprise (request is not for personal knowledge).
- Fulfilling the request would be unduly burdensome to this agency.
Other common, Non-FOIA Requests
- A printed list of child sex offenders registered within the Sheriff's Offices jurisdiction is available for public inspection at the Records Office during normal business hours upon display of photo identification.
- Property reports documenting lost or stolen property are available upon request after payment of a five dollar ($5.00) fee.
- Copies of accident reports available at a cost of five dollars ($5.00) each. Copies of accident reports involving a reconstruction of the accident are available at a cost of twenty dollars ($20.00) each after the reconstruction is complete. If you wish only the accident report and not the reconstruction report or diagram then the fee will be five dollars ($5.00).
- Criminal background checks should be referred to the Circuit Clerks Office, using court records. The Sheriff does not provide criminal background checks for private business or individuals.