The ACLU of Maine submitted a "friend of the court" brief in Bangor Publishing Co. v. State of Maine. In this case, the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News seek public records about police misconduct by current and former State Police employees under the state's Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). The newspapers argue that the State provided only a partial response to their FOAA request, redacting key information and failing to produce certain referenced documents.
In the ACLU of Maine's brief, we explained the critical importance of transparency when it comes to police misconduct, particularly given that some individuals and communities face greater risk of being subjected to police misconduct. We detailed the history of disproportionate use of force against Black people and people with disabilities. Given the importance of transparency, we argued that the Court should require a broad search and complete disclosure of records regarding any finding or settlement involving police misconduct.
On May 26, 2022, the Court issued a favorable decision requiring the Maine State Police to turn over additional information about officer misconduct, finding that the State Police’s initial FOAA search was insufficient. The Court required the Maine State Police to conduct another document search and turn over several categories of additional documents: personnel records of employees who were disciplined during the relevant time period, including inactive disciplinary actions, and documents related to final disciplinary action that may have been removed from the employee file pursuant to a bargaining agreement. The Court’s decision underscores the need for Maine law enforcement agencies to open their records to public scrutiny. The government released the redacted discipline records in June.