A proposed law to keep some police internal affairs statements secret has caused a behind-the-scenes battle between law enforcement groups and the Michigan Press Association, says the Booth Newspapers Lansing bureau. The bill would bar the release of “Garrity” statements–named after a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that police departments couldn’t threaten to fire officers unless they cooperated in internal affairs investigations, and then use the information against them in criminal court. That would violate their constitutional protection against self-incrimination, the court said.
Garrity statements are sometimes released to the public under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. The press association argues that the officer’s constitutional right against self-incrimination is protected under the Supreme Court ruling. Said Dawn Phillips Hertz, the association’s attorney, “What, exactly, is it that they’re afraid of? This is somebody admitting they did something bad. Why shouldn’t the public know?” Police unions say people in other jobs don’t have to make such statements, sometimes with embarrassing personal details, under the threat of losing their livelihood. Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the governor’s office is working with both sides to try to find a compromise.