"We are somewhat disappointed with the opinion, because it may affect the manner in which we review complaints," Smithers said in the statement. "Clearly there is more information for the lower court to consider and we look forward to providing the additional information that supports the position of the department."
Virginia Lanham, an attorney for the State Police, argued that the release of internal investigations would violate an officer's right to privacy. Sean McGinley, a lawyer for the Gazette, argued that police work is public information and not subject to exemption under privacy laws.
Information contained in the central log of complaints, Lanham said, would be used "to identify specific individuals who have been accused of misconduct in order to write newspaper articles detailing the misconduct."
Workman wrote that the court gave little weight to the argument that newspaper articles about police misconduct are "a misuse of information."
"Because the dissemination of public information by the press is an important cornerstone of a vivacious democracy, this factor weighs in the Gazette's favor," Workman wrote. "The press has a vital role in disseminating to the public the type of information at issue in this case."
The State Police central log of complaints contains information about officers who have been flagged for frequent misconduct allegations or have more than three use-of-force incidents. There are more than 1,200 entries in the agency's central log of complaints.
Those files contain information about an officer's health records and what stressors they may face on and off duty. The Gazette's original request said names could be redacted to bypass the privacy exemption, McGinley said.Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.