How to Obtain Records of 911 Calls in California

By Maggie Lourdes - Updated June 05, 2017
Emergency 911 call on smartphone

The California Public Records Act, or CPRA, makes state and local agency records, including emergency 911 call records, available for public inspection and copying. You can make 911 records requests verbally or in writing to the specific agency that holds the records, such as local law enforcement departments. You must provide as much information identifying the call as you can. This includes a date range when the call was placed; parties' names and addresses; or descriptions of the incident to help the agency research and locate the requested records.

Law Enforcement Agencies

In California, 911 calls are a matter of public record. The CPRA, which makes these records available to the public, was enacted in 1968 under Government Code Sections 6250-6270. The law enforcement agency that receives the 911 call is responsible for maintaining the records. For example, if you're looking for 911 records in Los Angeles, you'll want to contact the Los Angeles Police Department.

Limitations on Requests

Law enforcement agencies may withhold information in CPRA requests to protect a party's privacy. For example, a 911 tape may include the name of a minor child, or a person's personal phone number and home address. The agency may redact, or conceal, this type of sensitive information from a record before releasing it. An agency can also withhold a record under the broad exception that more harm than good would come to the public by its disclosure. For example, if releasing a 911 tape would create a homeland security threat, the government has the right to deny a request for its disclosure.

About the Author

Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.

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