The University of Notre Dame’s campus police department is not a “public agency” under Indiana law and does not have to provide information about investigations requested by sports media company ESPN, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled in a widely watched case. The South Bend Tribune says the rulings means Notre Dame and other private colleges in Indiana with police forces have no obligation to provide details of campus police reports and investigations. City, county and other professional police forces must make such information available to the public under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. A university spokesman said the school is “pleased but not surprised by the decision.” ESPN said, “We are extremely disappointed by the ruling and what it represents for public transparency.”
ESPN in 2014 sought campus police records from Notre Dame Security Police for cases involving some student athletes. The university refused the request, citing its status as a private university, and ESPN sued. The sports media company lost in local court but appealed the ruling. In March, an Indiana appeals court ruled that Notre Dame’s police department is a public agency and subject to Indiana’s open records laws, rejecting the university’s arguments that its police records should remain closed. Notre Dame appealed to the state’s high court, which revered that decision, ruling unanimously that the private university’s police department isn’t a public agency that falls under the state open records law.