No Decision Yet on Police Internal Affairs Files
This story aired Friday, October 18.
Wednesday, April 23 2014, 10:23 AM CDT
A ruling on whether to release some Springfield Police internal affairs files is imminent.
A judge said Friday he would rule within a week to either order the city to turn over those documents under a Freedom of Information Act request to several media outlets, including Newschannel 20, or keep them private as the police union is demanding.
Caught in the middle is the city of Springfield, which failed to destroy the files in question as laid out in the police union contract. City attorneys argue they're caught with conflicting orders. The union contract calls for the records' destruction, but FOIA law states those internal affairs files are public domain.
The police union's attorney, Ron Stone, argued the internal affairs documents should not be released as they would cause what he called "irreparable harm."
Under the union's contract with the city of Springfield, the city should have already destroyed the documents, so Stone says they should be unavailable for public viewing.
Stone said the union did not follow up to ensure the files had been destroyed, though.
"They absolutely told me they were destroyed with respect to the State Police reports," he told reporters outside the courtroom. "The others, we spot checked, but...shame on us."
Attorneys representing the various media outlets said whether the files should have been destroyed or not is irrelevant. Because the documents do exist, a FOIA request trumps any contract agreement, they say, and therefore should be released..
"No exemptions have been invoked here," said Esther Seitz, who is representing the media entities in the case. "And quite frankly, there are no exemptions for records that could have been destroyed but weren't, and that's what the union's arguing."
Seitz said she'll be surprised if the judge decides the files should remain private. Stone, on the other hand, called the decision "a toss up."
In addition to fighting the FOIA request, the Springfield Police union filed a grievance against the city demanding the internal affairs files be destroyed immediately. The grievance has yet to be heard by an arbitrator.