Boston Globe by John R. Ellement
March 12, 2020
Booking photographs of judges and law enforcement officers who are arrested and any police reports connected with their cases are public records, even if the officials are never arraigned in court, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday.
In one of two major rulings on the intersection between the public’s right to know and the privacy protections in the state’s Criminal Offender Record and Information Act, the court ruled unanimously that The Boston Globe was entitled to booking photos and reports on police officers arrested on drunken driving charges and the booking photo and report on the arrest of a judge for theft.
“The public has a vital interest in ensuring transparency where the behavior of these public officials allegedly fails to comport with the heightened standards attendant to their office,” Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote in the 6-0 ruling.
The SJC also, for the first time, made it clear that government agencies must extract data from their electronic records to comply with requests under the state’s public records law. The law allows the government to deny requests if the information sought would force them to create a “new record.”