Maryland’s high court Thursday upheld lower court orders that the state police must release internal affairs records on investigations of racial profiling complaints.
Furthermore, the Court of Appeals said a Maryland Public Information Act provision prohibiting the release of personnel records does not exempt those records from disclosure because identifying information can be redacted.
The opinion decided a case that began in 2007, when the NAACP — which sought the records to determine whether racial profiling complaints were being fully investigated — challenged the state police’s refusal to release the records, even if identifying information were eliminated or blotted out.
“The Public Information Act’s strong preference for public access must be considered whenever a court is applying the particular provisions of the statute,” the court wrote.
The opinion is “under review at this time,” said both David Paulson, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, which represented state police in the appeal, and Elena Russo, a spokeswoman for Maryland State Police.
The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the ruling as a strong precedent, as did Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which had offered in 2007 to accept records redacted so each trooper was identified only by a number or code.
In a statement issued by the ACLU, NAACP and the Venable law firm, lawyer Seth Rosenthal said state police have been under a consent decree since 2003 meant to ensure that racial profiling complaints are taken seriously.
But from 2003 to 2008, none of 100 complaints resulted in a trooper being disciplined for racial profiling, Rosenthal said.