The Massachusetts State Police won this year’s Golden Padlock Award given by the national organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), “celebrating the most secretive government agency or individual in the United States.” The journalist group cited the police force “for habitually going to extraordinary lengths to thwart public records requests, protect law enforcement officers and public officials who violate the law and block efforts to scrutinize how the department performs its duties.” The department routinely takes months or longer to respond to news media FOI requests. Requests for basic documents usually produce refusals, large portions of blacked out documents or demands for tens of thousands of dollars in unjustified fees.
The agency charged a $42,750 fee for the log of its public records requests and a $62,220 fee for records of crashes involving police cruisers sought by the Boston Globe. A Bay State Examiner reporter was told to pay a $710.50 “non-refundable research fee” to get an estimate of the fee he would have to pay to obtain copies of internal affairs reports. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette said that, “The Massachusetts State Police is a habitual offender – verging on a career criminal – when it comes to breaking a state law intended to ensure government is accountable to the people it serves.” The award was announced at IRE’s annual convention, which concluded this past weekend in Philadelphia. Two other justice system agencies, Colorado’s judicial branch and the Texas Department of Public Safety, were among four finalists for the award.