ACLU Calls on Cranston Mayor to Release Full Report of State Police Investigation into City’s Police
Posted: July 29, 2015|Category: Open Government
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today called on Cranston Mayor Allan Fung to promptly release the full, unredacted report on the State Police investigation into the Cranston Police Department, noting that Mayor Fung’s stated plan to consult the Attorney General about what information would be appropriate to release under the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) was “unnecessary and unwarranted,” and would likely significantly delay access to the critical report.
In a letter faxed to Mayor Fung today, the ACLU explained that the state’s APRA outlines what information, such as personnel records and investigations, the state may withhold from public disclosure, not what it is obligated to withhold. Given the public interest in this investigation into the city’s police department and its culture, and the cost to the taxpayers of preparing the report, the ACLU stated that relying on the law providing access to public records to instead withhold the results would be “completely inappropriate.” The letter continued:
“In many respects, the report is at bottom an examination of personnel and investigative matters, and so reliance on APRA exemptions ultimately serves merely as an excuse to withhold vital information from the public. The City should not seek to use the open records law as a shield to withhold disclosure of critically important information from an investigation of alleged serious abuses of the public trust.”
The letter further noted that seeking advice from the Attorney General was “likely to delay – for weeks, if not months – public access to this critical report. However, the public deserves answers now.”
The letter concluded: “In a recent statement, you said that your ‘intention has always been transparency about this report.’ Because the Access to Public Records Act does not in any manner stand in the way of the report’s disclosure, and withholding it runs counter to your stated interest in transparency, we urge prompt release of the report this week.”
Since the so-called parking ticket scandal broke over a year-and-a-half ago, the ACLU of Rhode Island has expressed concerns about the civil liberties issues raised by the incident and emphasized the need for an independent investigation of the matter.