The Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has sent the following letter to the co-chairs of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee. The committee is hearing a proposal to undo a Supreme Court ruling from July and make the FOI Commission’s 20-year standard on police records into law. The committee was scheduled to vote on the bill Wednesday but instead held it to allow for a compromise.
Chairmen Rep. Jutila and Sen. Cassano,
The Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists asks that you allow the Government Administration and Elections Committee to pass HB 6750 as originally proposed.
The bill, as proposed, still provides exemptions that address the concerns raised by Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and law enforcement officials.
But it also provides the public access to the information that it needs to hold police departments accountable when there are allegations of excessive force or other wrong doing.
While all information becomes public when police close an investigation, that process can take years.
It can be very difficult for the public to hold officers accountable years after allegations of wrong doing, which is unacceptable given the fact that police departments are charged with protecting and serving that very public.
The original proposal puts into statute a standard that the Freedom of Information Commission had utilized successfully for 20 years. Efforts to scale back this standard will greatly harm the public’s ability to seek transparency. And with court rulings and public policy decisions, both in Connecticut and nationwide, that have limited the public’s access to information, it is important that the General Assembly say that transparency still matters.