Q&A: Are police suspensions public records?


From The News-Dispatch (Michigan City):

Q: The chief of police in a small town near Michigan City has reportedly been suspended amid a state police investigation. Town officials are refusing to confirm who has been suspended. Is a police officer’s suspension a matter of public record?

A: The answer depends upon whether the chief has been suspended with pay or without pay.

If he’s suspended with pay, personnel files may be kept confidential at the discretion of the public agency.

If he’s suspended without pay, that is a final disciplinary action and you can request inspection and copying of records from the chief’s personnel file that go to the discipline taken and the factual basis for that action. See IC 5-14-3-4(b)(8).

If you don’t know his pay status, make an Access to Public Records Act request for information from his personnel file as if the discipline is final. The department can either give you the information or refuse the request, saying the final action hasn’t occurred yet.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.