The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that although several police officers connected to the case cannot join the original lawsuit that John Chasnoff filed against the Board of Police Commissioners seeking access to the internal files, they do have the right to file their own legal case.
For that reason, a stay that's been in place since a circuit court judge ordered the release of the files last year will remain in place.
Neil Bruntrager, an attorney representing the police officers, says he'll file those cases within the next two weeks. The officers have no problems with the release of documents related to the criminal investigation, he says, but the files from the internal investigation contain information that violates their privacy.
"Family members’ names, where you lived, whether you’d ever been the subject of a complaint before, even unfounded complaints before," he said. "That was all part of those records."
Not so fast, says Chasnoff. The distinction between the internal and criminal investigations, he says, is a false one.
"The records we have gotten show that there was a lot of cross-fertilization, there really were not two investigations. What the department is trying to keep from view is really the essential materials, and those are the interviews that police officers conducted with internal affairs."
Bruntrager says such statements are protected under the Garrity rule, which says statements officers are compelled to give as a condition of their job cannot be used against them in court. No officers ever faced criminal charges, but several were disciplined internally.