The Charleston Gazette filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the West Virginia State Police this week seeking records detailing how the agency handles allegations of abuse and misconduct. Since 2006, State Police troopers have been accused of police brutality at least seven times and sexual assault at least twice. None of the allegations has resulted in charges against a trooper. The lawsuit requests reports produced by the department’s professional standards section and comes after requests for the public information from State Police and the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety were repeatedly denied.
Assistant Attorney General John Hoyer argued that the records couldn’t be released because state law forbids it. He cited the state Freedom of Information Act, which says that information can be withheld if it is of a personal nature “such as that kept in a personal, medical or similar file.” In the last five months the FBI has started at least two investigations into possible civil rights violations by on-duty troopers. The Gazette argues that the records should be released because of a “heightened public interest because they concern a state agency’s investigation of its own employees for complaints of alleged misconduct while in a position of authority. Society’s interest in disclosure of the public records requested outweighs the government’s interest in keeping the records confidential.”