The ACLU of Massachusetts today filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief urging the Supreme Judicial Court to rule that arrest records and booking photos of law enforcement officials are public records.
The Boston Globe filed a public records request for information regarding police officers who were arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and a state court judge who was accused of stealing a watch. The Superior Court ruled in 2017 that such records are public records, rejecting state and local agencies’ arguments that the records are exempt from the Massachusetts public records law. The agencies are appealing this decision.
“This case highlights the potential tension between government accountability and privacy interests,” said Ruth Bourquin, senior attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. "We believe that the law requires disclosure of these records, a result that will enable the public to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their conduct.”
According to the new amicus brief, arrest records and booking photos of law enforcement officers are not exempt from the public records law, particularly given the overwhelming public interest in knowing about the conduct of such officials and holding them accountable. The ACLU of Massachusetts also urges the Court to provide guidance about when arrest records, especially for those who are not law enforcement personnel, might be exempt from the public records law as an unwarranted invasion of privacy.