The City of Worcester violated the Massachusetts Public Records Law when it refused to provide police misconduct investigation records to firm client the Telegram & Gazette newspaper, a judge of the Massachusetts Superior Court has ruled. After a four-day bench trial litigated by partner Jeff Pyle, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker held in a 35-page decision that the City was not permitted to withhold records of police department investigations into alleged misconduct just because the officers are being sued in civil rights cases.
In closing arguments made in January 2021, Attorney Pyle argued that it would be illogical to shield the internal affairs records of officers who are being sued in court. “The city says, ‘You can have the records of the good officers, but not the allegedly bad officers,’” Pyle said. “That turns the accountability function of the Public Records Law on its head.”
Judge Kenton-Walker also ruled that the city must disclose records containing basic information about pending misconduct investigations, including the names of the officers under investigation.
T&G executive editor David Nordman said of the ruling: “The judge’s decision is not a victory for the newspaper alone, but a victory for the people of Worcester,” he said. “We will continue to work for them by holding those in power accountable.”