Missouri Supreme Court upholds release of internal police investigation documents | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Supreme Court upholds release of internal police investigation documents

Aug 19, 2015

A long-running legal fight over who can see the documents generated during an internal police investigation is over.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the case of 35 St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers who wanted to block the release of information from an investigation into the misuse of tickets to the 2006 World Series. That decision lets stand a lower court ruling that said the officers in question had no expectation of privacy around the documents. It was not immediately clear when the documents would be made public.

The case in question started with a 2006 incident in which officers who had seized tickets from scalpers outside Busch Stadium used the tickets to attend games themselves, or allowed family members and friends to use the tickets. The department would discipline 16 officers and other department employees, with punishments ranging from written reprimands to suspensions and demotions. No one was ever charged criminally.

The 2006 World's Series was a winner for the Cardinals.
Credit Matt Dimmic | Flickr

The legal fight began in April 2007 when John Chasnoff, a member of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, sued under the Missouri Sunshine Law to gain access to the records of the internal investigation. A judge ruled in 2009 and again in 2010 that the records were subject to release under the law. Thirty-five officers who were interviewed as part of the investigation were eventually allowed to file a separate case asserting that the release of the records violated their constitutional right to privacy. 

Judge Robert Dierker ruled in 2014 that the officer's assumptions that the records would be kept private did not trump the principle laid out in the Missouri Sunshine Law that documents generated by a public body must be kept open. An appeals court panel upheld Dierker's ruling in April, and the decision by the Supreme Court makes that the final ruling.  

Credit (Screenshot/Supreme Court of Missouri website)

An attorney for the officers said her clients and the St. Louis Police Officers Association accept the ruling of the Supreme Court. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which represented John Chasnoff, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann