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Nonprofit Sues Baltimore Law Department For 'Obstructing Access' To Police Conduct Records

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A local nonprofit filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Baltimore City Law Department, alleging the department is conspiring with the Baltimore Police Department to obstruct access to public records of police misconduct.

The Baltimore Action Legal Team, also known as BALT, is a civil rights-focused nonprofit that provides legal support. The organization is representing three plaintiffs: Open Justice Baltimore, a nongovernmental organization; Alissa Figueroa, a journalist in residence at Morgan State University; and reporter Brandon Soderberg.

The Baltimore City Law Department is the custodian of records for Baltimore Police, and BALT alleges its plaintiffs have made 21 requests for public
records regarding police conduct since 2019, but "not a single full file of an officer's history of misconduct has been disclosed."

BALT said the department has a "pattern and practice of obstructing disclosure" as well as denying information relevant to the public interest, information that is granted under the Maryland Public Information Act. The act grants Marylanders "a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens," according to the Office of the Attorney General.

The nonprofit accused the department of obstructing access in a variety of ways, including "ignoring requests outright, disregarding mandatory timelines... applying erroneous costs... providing files missing vital information, and disclosing information in unusable formats."

Mayor Brandon Scott's office on Friday told WJZ it is aware of BALT's lawsuit, but hasn't received a copy of the complaint.

The City and BPD are committed to transparency and compliance with the MPIA," a spokesperson for Scott said. "Once the Law Department is able to review, it will respond to the Complaint in court in accordance with the judicial process."
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