September 21 Tuesday

Police Secrecy Exceptionalism, Christina Koningisor, University of Utah

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 12:00PM - 1:30PM
  • Online
  • Open To The Public
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The problem of police secrecy has garnered substantial attention from legal scholars in recent years. Yet a critical facet of police secrecy remains underexplored: the exceptional informational protections extended to law enforcement agencies under state transparency statutes. This Article examines this regime, excavating both the legal infrastructure and practical application of the secrecy protections embedded in state transparency laws. In doing so, it demonstrates the myriad ways that judges, legislators, and police officials have worked to shield police records from public view. It argues that this robust web of informational protections operate as a kind of police secrecy exceptionalism, analogous in some ways to the exceptional protections granted to national security secrets in the federal context. 

The Article then explores the theoretical and doctrinal underpinnings of this exceptional treatment of police secrecy claims, finding that these arguments generally fall into one of four buckets: protection against circumvention of the law; protection of citizen or police officer privacy; protection of trade secrets; and promotion of the effectiveness, efficiency, or legitimacy of policing. It concludes that none of these proffered defenses justify the extraordinary informational protections currently extended to law enforcement agencies.

Christina Koningisor is an Associate Professor of Law at the S. J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. Her scholarship focuses on media law and the law of information access and government transparency.  Her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Northwestern University Law Review, and the Minnesota Law Review. She has previously served as a lawyer for the New York Times and a law clerk on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University.

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