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ACLU files lawsuit against St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board claiming Sunshine Law violations

ACLU files lawsuit against St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board claiming Sunshine Law violations

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ST. LOUIS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board over what the ACLU says are violations of the state's open records laws.

The group claims the oversight board illegally redacted names and badge numbers of police officers who have had complaints filed against them. The complaint forms are filled out by citizens and submitted to the board for review.

"Contrary to the board’s stated mission to provide transparency and accountability, and in violation of the Sunshine Law, the board has attempted to hide from the public critical information about these complaints," the suit reads.

The complaint forms were initially requested by Phillip Weeks, who in the past has requested and published tactics and policies used by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He has also sued the city after it declined to release information relating to traffic stops. 

According to Missouri Sunshine Law, the government can withhold some information, such as material related to the "hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a governmental body when personal information about the employee is discussed or recorded."

But the lawsuit argues that exception does not apply to complaints submitted to the Civilian Oversight Board, as the board does not have the power to discipline officers. According to city ordinance, the board can investigate officers and make recommendations to police commanders.

City officials said Tuesday the city's attorney had not yet been served the lawsuit.

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