May 31 – A Superior Court judge ordered Maine State Police to provide the state’s two largest newspapers to previously concealed parties with disciplinary records detailing misconduct and rule violations on the part of his soldiers.
In a May 26 ruling, Penobscot Superior Court Judge William R. Anderson also ordered Maine State Police to search and turn over missing disciplinary records that the state failed to disclose in court. responding to public records requests from the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News.
However, Anderson sided with the Maine State Police in defending a number of other redactions that could reveal confidential medical information.
The lawsuit, which combines separate complaints filed by the two newspapers, relates to records requests filed under the state’s Freedom of Access Act seeking final disciplinary orders for all department employees. of Public Security finalized between 2015 and 2019.
Final disciplinary actions against public employees, including police, are public records in Maine.
In response to the request, the state released documents regarding disciplinary cases of 22 officers. But in 13 of those cases, the records were either too redacted or too vague to provide a meaningful description of the conduct that gave rise to the disciplinary action.
The state declined to cite a specific legal justification for each deletion in the records, saying this would somehow reveal the contents of the deleted information itself. He also failed to provide other disciplinary records referenced in the published information.
The newspapers published a three-day series revealing the nature of misconduct within the ranks of the state police based on records provided by the police. Reports showed a secret process, in which misconduct records are only briefly made available to the public before being destroyed. The lack of disclosure prevented public accountability of soldiers and the department’s disciplinary process.
State police have written substantial descriptions of what some officers have done to warrant punishment.
The report and lawsuit were supported by the Pulitzer Center and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, where law students help media organizations advocate for greater government transparency through a lawsuit.
This story will be updated.