U.S. Supreme Court won't hear Conn. troopers' appeal in records case
HARTFORD (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by the Connecticut State Police Union in its challenge of a police accountability law that allows public disclosure of certain state trooper personnel files and internal investigation reports.
At issue were documents in internal probes that end with no finding of wrongdoing. The union argued the 2020 state law violated the 2018-2022 troopers' contract by stripping away its exemptions from state freedom of information laws and allowing such documents to be publicly released.
Union officials say troopers oppose the law because it allows records involving unfounded allegations to become public, possibly tarnishing a trooper’s reputation despite no findings of wrongdoing.
The Supreme Court did not say anything about the case in rejecting it among a host of others, as is typical. The decision upholds rulings by lower federal courts that upheld the state law.
Andrew Matthews, executive director of the state police union, said the decision is going to have a chilling effect.
“Now you’ve got troopers that are reactive instead of proactive, for the most part, because they don’t want to get involved in things where people are going to make false, malicious allegations against them, and then the press is going to write about it, even if it's unfounded or not sustained or they’re exonerated because it’s completely false," he said.
Matthews added that troopers will continue to do their jobs but remain upset that state officials eliminated contract provisions they agreed to during contract negotiations.
State Attorney General William Tong's office, which defended the accountability law, released a brief statement Monday saying it was pleased the Supreme Court left lower court rulings intact.
A message seeking comment was left for state police.
The union argued the law violated the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says states cannot pass laws impairing contracts. But there are exceptions, including if a law was passed for a good public purpose, which state officials argued.
Proponents of the 2020 law, which included many other reforms, said it answered the calls for reform, including accountability and transparency, after the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people.