State Attorney General Files Defense of Disclosure Provisions in New Police Accountability Law

On Tuesday, the Connecticut Attorney General’s office responded to a lawsuit filed last week by the Connecticut State Police Union seeking to have part of the wide-ranging police accountability bill recently passed by the Connecticut General Assembly declared unconstitutional.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Skold filed the reply in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut on Tuesday on behalf of the defendant, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella.

The police accountability bill, which includes more than 40 changes to policing procedure, would expand which police disciplinary records can be made public under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

The union is challenging these provisions in court on the grounds that they violate a 2019 collective bargaining agreement approved by the legislature.

In its filing, the Attorney General’s Office argued against an injunction halting provisions of the new law, on the basis that the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not bar the legislature from passing a law that conflicts with a contract, if the law was passed for legitimate public interest.

The Attorney General’s response also argues that the union could have foreseen that FOIA statutes or regulations could change and potentially circumvent non-disclosure provisions of its collective bargaining agreement.

The union is challenging two provisions in the new law that allow for records of discipline and allegations of misconduct to be released to the public, even when an internal affairs investigation has determined that the allegations were unsustained or unfounded, or when an officer has been exonerated.

Those provisions would override an agreement in 2019 to exempt internal affairs investigations disposed of as “exonerated, unfounded or not sustained” from public disclosure. 

The union also claims that the new law violates a long-standing provision in their agreement that gives troopers the right to object to a freedom of information request if it would constitute an invasion of privacy.

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