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Michigan Cop’s Mug Shot Releasable Under FOIA

The Michigan Court of Appeals held that a Detroit police officer’s mug shot may be released to the media under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Detroit Free Press made an FOIA request for the release of the booking photograph of a Detroit police officer who “had been suspended from the Detroit Police Department and charged with crimes based on allegations that he improperly diverted funds from an automobile theft program.” The Detroit Police Officers Association sought to enjoin the City from releasing the photograph, claiming that doing so would violate a term of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), prohibiting the release of confidential information regarding department employees.

The trial court “concluded that the parties’ CBA could not ‘contravene state law’ and that plaintiff failed to establish an exemption to the FOIA that would prevent the release of the booking photograph.” The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed.

The appellate court first disagreed “that the CBA precluded the release of the information,” finding that “there is no exemption in the FOIA that allows ‘a public body to bargain away the requirements of the FOIA.’”

The court then observed that under the FOIA, “information regarding individuals charged with felonies who are awaiting trial is not material of a personal nature subject to nondisclosure because of privacy interests and any court proceedings are open to the public.” Moreover, “the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in nondisclosure when a governmental employee is accused of violating the public trust.” As such, the court could not “conclude that the trial court’s decision…was clearly erroneous.” See: Detroit Police Officers Assn. v. City of Detroit, 2009 WL 2351470 (Mich. App. 2009).

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Related legal case

Detroit Police Officers Assn. v. City of Detroit