While there is no blanket exemption from New York’s Freedom of Information Law for police investigative reports, an appellate court has ruled that before such reports are released, they must be scrutinized in chambers to protect the privacy and safety of witnesses who may be identified.

The Appellate Division, First Department, in In re Johnson v. New York City Police Department, yesterday unanimously reversed a 1997 order of Acting Justice Diane Lebedeff directing the Police Department to produce reports to William Johnson concerning his arrest for the 1990 shooting death of a Bronx superintendent, George Braswell, in the lobby of an apartment building.