STEVENS POINT (WAOW)-- You hear them on TV, on the radio, and on the web, but soon 911 calls may be private information. At a hearing today, lawmakers discussed a new bill that could limit access to those recordings. Some state lawmakers want to remove 911 calls from the public domain and make them available only as a transcript.
State Representative Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore introduced the bill. "It's revictimizing the families. I really feel this is a victim's rights bill, that this is something for law enforcement investigators to be able to utilize," says Rep. Vruwink.
The bill comes after her discussions with the family of Brittany Zimmerman's fiance. Zimmerman was a Marshfield native. Her fiance Jordan Gonnering called police after discovering her body in their Madison apartment in 2008. News organizations had to sue the city to get access to his 911 call.
The Gonnerings told Representative Vruwink that listening to that recording brings back the trauma. "The whole premise of this is to limit the amount that people have to be revictimized in this case it was a murder and so I don't believe I am limiting information. It's still available in a written form," says Vruwink.
Communications Assistant Professor at UW-Stevens Point, Steve Hill, says it's troubling when the government is too limiting of the public's access to information. "In a free and open society, we need to be able to look at the information and judge for ourselves," says Professor Hill.
He says transcripts can be inaccurate. Plus, it only tells part of the story. "We know that there are always non verbals, the tone of voice the emotion that comes through, there could be background sounds that are important," explains Prof. Hill.
UWSP student journalist, Ryan Urban says that information aids in the accuracy of news reporting. "It's important for journalist to have access to all the information so they can tell the truest possible story," says Urban.
The committee will vote on the bill on February 18th.