Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to make all records related to criminal investigations public.
The Vermont Supreme Court ruled this past year that all criminal and investigative records can be withheld from the public. The American Civil Liberties Union says this damaged public trust of law enforcement, something the governor hopes to reverse. The governor says current Vermont law is stricter than federal law when it comes to this type of access.
"The federal guidelines make sense, there's a lot of reasons why we should accept the federal guidelines in criminal cases, the first is they have been more transparent than many areas of state government," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
"The public feels it doesn't have the access it needs to be able to judge how well police are doing their jobs. On the other hand, police have been damaged by this exemption and the way it has been used because of the public's perception that they're trying to hide something," said Allen Gilbert of the Vermont ACLU.
Gilbert says he supports this proposal, but the devil is in the details. The Legislature will have to determine when some records should still be kept secret in specific cases, for example: If the public's right to know interferes with an individual's right to a fair trial or violates someone's privacy and threatens their safety.
As you can imagine, these notions change on a case by case basis making a comprehensive bill a difficult thing to draft.
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