Cumberland Times-News


October 17, 2013


Court: Public has right to see police records

The public has a right to know how police police themselves. That is the crux of an issue now being deliberated by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The issue surfaced when the Charleston Gazette filed a lawsuit because it was denied information about abuse and misconduct on the part of state police officers. The records were denied by the police agency’s Professional Standards division, which handles internal investigations.

On Tuesday, the state’s high court heard arguments in the case and said it would issue a ruling later this year. Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman said Tuesday she found it “troubling” the information isn’t released, especially after investigations are concluded. “If the public doesn’t have the right to know anything about any of these complaints — that just seems like it’s not in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act,” Workman said.

Virginia Lanham, attorney for the State Police, disagreed, arguing that opening the files would hurt the scope of the investigation. Sean McGinley, attorney for the Gazette, said there  should be no difference between troopers, who have the files closed, and doctors and lawyers who have complaints against them open for the public to see.

Among other concerns raised during Tuesday’s court arguments were those dealing with an officer’s medial or psychiatric issues and whether complaints against officers could be used to “harm or embarrass” officers.

Medical records can always be redacted by the court. As for the embarrassment, that is a price that has to be paid if a police officer is found guilty of violating the public’s trust.

Keeping records secret only undermines the public’s confidence in law enforcement agencies.

Only by following an open and transparent policy can that public trust be maintained.


Text Only
  • Life-saving law Life-saving law

    Not many pieces of legislation to come out of Annapolis can be described as a matter of life or death. But the CPR law signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley is just that.
    Known as Brenna’s Law, the legislation requires that all Maryland high schoolers will be required to complete CPR training as part of the graduation requirement.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wildfires Wildfires

    The huge woods fire in nearby Pennsylvania shows just how much devastation can take place when a blaze breaks out during early spring. In this case, 900 acres of forest — much of it public game land — became engulfed in flames.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Street flowers Street flowers

    Walk along Frostburg’s Main Street in the spring and summer and one can’t miss the beautiful floral arrangements that adorn the lampposts.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • First base First base

    The idea of spending up to $7,500 for a study about the possibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area should at least be allowed to reach first base.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Restore them Restore them

    There are an estimated 47,000 deceased veterans whose remains are unidentified and unclaimed throughout the U.S. A group of senators and congressmen hope to do something to
    bring these men and women some dignity after death.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Support the March for Babies May 3 at Canal Place

    At the March of Dimes, we promise to work tirelessly toward the day when all babies are born healthy.
    The March of Dimes has worked for more than 75 years to help babies get a healthy start in life.

    April 20, 2014

  • Happy Easter

    For the world’s more than 2 billion Christians, Easter is the day that defines their faith.
    The exact date of Christ’s resurrection is unknown, and even the precise locations of his crucifixion and burial are uncertain. This hasn’t stopped some people from saying they know the answer to these questions and others from trying to find out for themselves, or simply arguing about it.

    April 20, 2014

  • We concur We concur

    We’re certain that Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, echoes what many Americans feel about the complexity of filing income tax returns.
    When he filed his return, Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo