Starting Sept. 1, the Rice University Police Department (RUPD) will be subject to the Texas Public Information Act, also called the Open Records Act. This law makes it possible for anyone to request records relating to RUPD law enforcement activities.
The Texas Public Information Act has been in effect since Sept. 1, 1993, but previously applied only to public institutions and some organizations performing public functions. The 2015 session of the Texas Legislature passed a bill that extended coverage of the act to police departments at private universities. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law June 1 with an effective date of Sept. 1.
Requests made under the Public Information Act must be in writing and must pertain to existing records. The act applies only to law enforcement activities by RUPD and not to other departments of Rice University. However, emails and letters sent to RUPD by faculty, staff and students that relate to RUPD’s law enforcement activities may become records that are subject to the act, except for information that is otherwise legally excepted from disclosure.
RUPD’s Public Information Office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information may be found at RUPD’s open records website: rupd.rice.edu. Open records requests can be delivered in person during those hours at the police station on campus or emailed to RUPDopenrecords@rice.edu or faxed to 713-348-5156. Capt. Clemente Rodriguez has been appointed RUPD’s public information officer.
Faculty and staff who receive inquiries about open-records requests should tell the requester to contact RUPD and to submit any request directly to RUPD. Because the state has strict guidelines about how much time RUPD has to respond after the request is received, RUPD is the only office at the university authorized to receive any such open records requests.