Police Misconduct Complaints Are Public Records

May 11, 2016

Evan Stivers is a Michigan State University student who felt he had been mistreated by the East Lansing police officers who arrested him at a party after a noise complaint.  Suspecting that his experience was not unique, he submitted a public records request for other citizen complaints that had been filed against the officers who were involved in his arrest.  The East Lansing Police Department refused to disclose the complaints, arguing that they were “personnel records” exempt from disclosure under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. 

The ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on Evan’s behalf in March 2016, arguing that transparency in police misconduct complaints is both required by law and an important component of strong police-community relations.  To settle the case, the police agreed to implement a new policy whereby all citizen complaints would be disclosed to the public upon request.  They also provided Evan with the records he requested and paid our attorneys’ fees. 

(Stivers v. City of East Lansing; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; MSU Civil Rights Clinic Director Daniel Manville and Clinic Student Anne Puluka.)