MD High Court: Internal Police Misconduct Records Exempt from MPIA

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that internal records related to police misconduct are exempt from the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The question before the state’s highest court centered on whether citizens have a right to know the outcome and other information about an investigation once misconduct allegations are sustained. In a 5-2 ruling, the court said the law exempts personnel information from disclosure and does not differentiate between “sustained” and “unsustained” complaints.

The court said that a determination that a sustained finding requires disclosure would affect all public employees, not only police officers. Further, mandatory disclosure findings could chill the disciplinary process, rendering those in control less willing to sustain a finding of misconduct, the ruling said.

Related: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Police Chief Timothy Altomare are working with the Caucus of African American Leaders to bring more transparency to county police misconduct records that are authorized to be shared. As reported in The Capital Gazette:

The department details the number of complaints and statistics on use of force in a series of reports posted on its website. Although the reports have previously been available online, the county recently took steps to make them more easily accessible as it works with African American community leaders on a number of concerns.

“It’s a valid question — how many complaints you get, what kinds of complaints, how many are sustained or unsustained,” Police Chief Timothy Altomare said.

Of the 78 complaints filed with the department’s Internal Affairs Division against officers in 24, 32 percent were found to be sustained, according to the report.

Police also said officers used force in 141 incidents last year. Because multiple officers were involved in some of those cases, 197 use of force reports were submitted by individual officers.

Snowden’s group and county officials are also planning community meetings in all seven County Council districts this fall to gather suggestions on improving police and community relations.

“We’re committed to a respectful dialogue and want the community’s input,” said Owen McEvoy, a spokesman for Schuh.

For more information read the full articles in The Baltimore Sun and The Capital Gazette.