Q&A: Police settlement


From The Courier-Times (New Castle):

Q: I have a question about a legal settlement involving some police officers. The case involves three officials with Henry County Community Corrections who sued a county commissioner, the former chief of the New Castle Police Department, a detective with the Indiana State Police, and two detectives with the New Castle Police and the Henry County Sheriff’s Department.

The case concluded with a confidential settlement between the parties. My question is whether this settlement constitutes a public record that is open to inspection. The insurance company paying the settlement received taxpayer money for premiums.

Previous cases might indicate that this settlement is a public record, at least if you look at the precedent established in Knightstown Banner v. Town of Knightstown from December 2005. A state appeals court ruled that a confidential settlement derived from a civil rights case involving the police was open to public inspection because the insurance company received taxpayer funds for premiums.

A: You did your homework well. If the insurance company was representing the various public agencies you mentioned, then the Knightstown case would apply, and you should be able to get a copy of the settlement(s) approved by the public agencies involved.

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