This summer, the Maryland Court of Appeals, that state’s highest court, ruled in Dashiell v. Maryland State Police that “records of an internal investigation pertaining to the sustained violation of administrative rules” are “personnel records” that should not be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act. The findings of internal investigations, in other words, are now exempt from transparency requirements.
The decision resolved a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Taleta Dashiell, who had been trying to obtain information on a sustained complaint against an officer who called her a “nigger” twice on her voicemail. In filing a records request, Dashiell argued she was a “person of interest,” since she filed the complaint, and was therefore exempt from the “personnel records” exemption. The high court disagreed.
In her dissent, Judge Shirley Watts argued that “a record of discipline based on a sustained complaint against a law enforcement officer is not a personnel record” but “among the very types of document that the Public Information Act is designed to make available to the public,” because it shows how a government agency responds to proven misconduct.