CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court will decide if the State Police will be allowed to keep internal investigation information about State Troopers private.
The High Court heard arguments Tuesday on a case originally filed by the Charleston Gazette. The newspaper continually sought information about complaints against Troopers and the investigations but was denied. A Kanawha County circuit judge ruled in favor of the State Police.
Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman said Tuesday she found it “troubling” the information isn’t released especially after investigations are concluded.
“If the public doesn’t have the right to know anything about any of these complaints—that just seems like it’s not in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act,” Workman said.
State Police attorney Virginia Lanham argued opening the files would hurt the scope of the investigations.
“You want candor. You want the employee to be able to say, ‘This is what occurred. This is what didn’t work and we need to change the way we do things,’” Lanham said.
But Gazette attorney Sean McGinley argued there should be no difference between Troopers, who have the files closed, and doctors and lawyers who have complaints against them open for the public to see.
“There’s no reason to treat police officers any different than a complaint against a lawyer or a doctor,” McGinley said. “This is just part of the American democratic process of transparency and that’s why these documents should be made public.”
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a written opinion on the case later this year.