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Judge Issues Order Protecting Release of Some IA Files
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They may have won the battle, but the war is far from over. The union representing the Springfield Police Department is granted a temporary restraining order protecting the release of certain police internal affairs documents to the media.
The emergency motion came about after several news organizations, including ABC Newschannel 20, made Freedom of Information Act requests to the city for some police internal affairs files.
Inside a Sangamon County courtroom, Ron Stone, the attorney representing the police union, argued those files--along with dozens of others--should have been destroyed years ago, based on the terms of the police union contract. Therefore, he argued, they shouldn't be made public.
Stone also argued that releasing these internal affairs files would do irreparable harm to those involved.
"Irreparable means that you can't undo it," Stone told reporters. "I mean, once they're disclosed, you can't undo that."
A reporter asked, "I guess the question is, are you saying what's in those files would be very harmful, or are you saying it's harmful if the files get released before anybody knows what's in them?"
"I don't know what's in the files," Stone said. "I haven't seen them. But I'm erring on the side of caution on behalf of our members."
Attorneys representing media outlets, including ABC Newschannel 20, argue that FOIA trumps the union's arguments, because public documents are open to inspection by members of the public. Several court rulings say police internal affairs files are public documents.
"We have apparently conflicting statues with the Local Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Public Labor Relations Act," Don Craven, the attorney representing WICS, said. "I don't think there is any real harm in taking another week to think about this and lay out those arguments."
We asked Craven if any of those trump FOIA. He said, "No."
In granting the temporary restraining order, Judge John Schmidt ordered a full hearing to decide the matter. That hearing is scheduled for Friday, October 18.