Recent news Louisville Metro Police hid more than 738,000 records related to the sexual abuse of Explorer Scouts by two of its officers rightfully caused a public uproar when the incident came to light.
A newspaper sought the files from Louisville Metro Police Department under Kentucky’s Open Records Act, yet records show LMPD concealed the existence of the documents, subsequently destroying them. Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies routinely conceal critical information about high-profile police scandals from the public, often claiming releasing the information would compromise ongoing investigations.
Broad denials of the public’s requests for information are deeply at odds with the open records laws meant to ensure transparency and accountability in our government, including law enforcement agencies.
The scandal is further evidence our public record laws have to be strengthened and robust enforcement mechanisms applied to bring important information to light.
Since many local laws are modeled after the federal Freedom of Information Act, strong bipartisan reform on the federal level would benefit all Americans.
To promote transparency throughout government, the incoming Biden administration can strengthen FOIA on Day 1 through executive order.
The scandal makes clear that gaps in transparency and oversight in our freedom of information laws that have to be repaired both to uphold the public’s right to know and to hold law enforcement officials to account.