CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Gazette filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the West Virginia State Police on Wednesday, asking for 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 have resulted in charges against a trooper.
The lawsuit, filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, 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.
The original Freedom of Information Act requests were mailed to State Police Superintendent Col. Timothy S. Pack on May 25. They requested:
According to legislative rules, the reports should include information regarding the number of external citizen complaints, internal complaints and use of force incidents for each employee. The original Freedom of Information Act Request stated that if any of the records was exempt from a FOIA request, to provide redacted copies of the material.
Those requests were denied.
State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous declined to comment on the lawsuit late Wednesday because he had yet to see it and because it is a pending civil matter.
In a letter to the Gazette last month, Assistant Attorney General John A. Hoyer, who represents the State Police, 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."
Hoyer also cited a second provision in the act that says records can be withheld if they are "records of law-enforcement agencies that deal with the detection and investigation of crime and the internal records and notations of such law-enforcement agencies which are maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement."