Police Abuse

Police Misconduct Files Exempt From FOIA, Maryland Appeals Court Rules

Records of disciplinary measures taken against cops are considered part of their "personnel files"

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CBS Baltimore

Via Tim Cushing at TechDirt, a ruling in Maryland that will make it even harder for the public to obtain information about what happens when a complaint against a police officer is filed—even if that complaint is sustained.

From TechDirt:

The Maryland appeals court has ruled that police departments' internal investigation documents are "personnel files" and thus exempt from public records requests. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of Taleta Dashiell, who was seeking a copy of documents related to her own sustained complaint against Sgt. of the Maryland State Police. 

The Maryland State Police (MSP) engaged in quite a bit of contortion to avoid fulfilling Dashiell's request. When the officer in charge of responding to public information records requests retired, the MSP returned Dashiell's letters as "addressee unknown," without forwarding it to the new records officer. That the complaint against Maiello was sustained was irrelevant—the department, as permitted by law, treats both unsustained and sustained complaints in the same way when it comes to withholding them from the public.

Police officers' records in Maryland are protected by the state's law enforcement officers' bill of rights—virtually every state has one. In this case, it's the bill of rights that made personnel records confidential. The courts, meanwhile, rubber stamped the police's treatment of its own records of disciplining cops as actually part of the disciplined cops' personnel files.

Not every judge on the appeals court agreed. From the dissent:

The discipline that the law enforcement agency decides to administer to the officer does not directly pertain to employment or the officer's ability to perform his or her job. Plainly put, the officer did what the officer did, regardless of how the law enforcement agency decided to respond. The administration of the discipline is an action of—and thus reflects the judgment of—the law enforcement agency, not the officer. Thus, a record of discipline based on a sustained complaint against a law enforcement officer is not a personnel record; instead, it is among the very types of document that the Public Information Act is designed to make available to the public: a document that reflects how a public agency responds to an employee's proven misconduct.

While the burgeoning race-based police reform movement hasn't yet targeted the various police officers "bills of rights" making transparency and accountability in policing more difficult to achieve, they may be starting to gain some substantive awareness of how police unions contribute to the problem, launching a database earlier this month seeking to collect information on how contracts affect police disciplining in America's hundred largest cities.

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  1. So in the land of Mary if I’m on the job when i fuck someone up my HR department will be cover for my misdeeds? That would be sweet.

    1. You can’t spell “whore” without “HR”….

    2. You’re not one of the King’s Men, so no.

      1. all that means he he might still be able to put humpty dumpty together again.

  2. Could have a silver lining. Make these “personnel” matters criminal ones.

  3. Professional courtesy is a helluva drug.

    1. *echos* helluva drug

    2. So being in a gang is a hellavu drug.

  4. Man arrested after charging iPhone on London Overground train

    A man has accused British Transport police of being “overzealous” and “ridiculous” after he was arrested for charging his iPhone using a socket on a London Overground train.

    Robin Lee, a 45-year-old artist based in Islington, was handcuffed and taken to a British Transport Police station on Caledonian Road after his arrest for “abstracting electricity”.

    Lee was then arrested on a second offence of “unacceptable behaviour” after “becoming aggressive” when objecting to his prior arrest.

    1. Some of you enforcer class mammals would assert copyright infringement in this case

    2. “De-arrested”?

      How do you unfire a gun?

    3. So what reason did all those people die fighting in WW2 for again? Was it fried um? No no…….

      I GOT IT!!!! France was liberated and Britain’s ass got saved in the name of fiefdom!!!!

  5. I disagree with this

    SUSTAINED complaints should be public record

    Granted, if a complaint is being grieved, there’s an argument it should remain sealed until the grievance is resolved – sustained or overturned (via binding arbitration usually)

    Sustained complaints MUST be punlically disclosed or open govt becomes a joke

    1. i don’t know what punlically means… but it’s my new favorite word.

    2. If it’s not public record, how do we know that the punishment was appropriate and meaningful?

    3. “SUSTAINED complaints should be public record”

      Making it impossible for the peasants to judge the credibility of the adjudication process.

      Mission Accomplished!

  6. …the state’s law enforcement officers’ bill of rights
    Certainly a misnomer. A “law enforcement officer” is a title and, obviously, a title cannot have rights. Only man/woman can have rights and the man/woman, when acting as a law enforcement officer, has no rights. He/she, as the LEO, only has duties, obligations and responsibilities.
    They are using sloppy and perhaps purposely deceptive language and working in opposition to their masters’ (the people) wishes. The majority magistrates (called judges) clearly got it wrong.

    1. Pissing and shitting on the constitutional rights of citizens all the fucking day long every fucking day requires extra rights, my man.

      1. Thems called privileges, like droit de seigneur.

    2. Oh you poor, naive fool. LEOs have powers, privileges and immunities. They most certainly do not have duties, obligations and responsibilities, except in the most limited sense and only with respect to their government overlords, never with respect to the peons they rule. And “the people” are certainly not their masters. They are the serfs to be used and abused as the LEO sees fit. You forget that at your peril.

  7. Maryland was the first state to pass a LEOBR, in 1972, and by now many states have followed, invariably after lobbying from police unions and associations. Often the bills are sponsored by Republicans, who seem to forget their normal skepticism of public employees as an interest group when uniformed services are involved.
    .
    There’s something about a man in uniform, a manly man, a dominating, take-charge kinda guy…..You know, it occurs to me that maybe the reason libertarians haven’t been able to seize power is the lack of a uniform. Maybe we need to adopt, if not the full nines, at least some part of a uniform. Like a Jacket or something, something that makes the girls swoon and the boys jealous.

    1. “There’s something about a man in uniform, a manly man, a dominating, take-charge kinda guy…”

      One who carries handcuffs!

    2. I say we take back jackboots. You can say what you want about the Nazis, but they knew how to dress.

  8. Contracts are only valid for lawful purposes, including union contracts. Concealing evidence of a crime is not a lawful purpose.

  9. Our rulers are exempt from all laws, and the peasants will take it and like it!

  10. I got a good laugh earlier today. The phone rang and it was a solicitor for the “Penna. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.” I told him to call back when the PBA finally decides to stop protecting officers who use excessive force. He hung up on me!

    1. Now you’re on another list.

    2. Leave the Pro Bowlers Association out of it.

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