- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A St. Louis judge has ordered the city police department to turn over disciplinary records related to officers’ use of 2006 World Series tickets seized from scalpers.

Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled late Wednesday that the department release the documents to the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri as part of a public records lawsuit.

The ACLU said Thursday that it had obtained some internal investigation documents the St. Louis Police Department had previously refused to provide, but the judge ruled that other documents remain off-limits while some officers continue to appeal their release.

Eight officers were suspended and demoted for turning over tickets to friends and family. Seven other officers also were disciplined.

Attorney Neil Bruntrager, who represents the disciplined officers, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1xPMGiB ) he will advise his clients to appeal the ruling, which he suggested could pave the way for broad public access to previously closed police disciplinary files, including internal affairs records.

“The implications are long term,” he said. “The vast majority of complaints (against police) are completely unfounded, and all of those are now going to be in play.”

The police department referred questions to the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, which declined comment.

Another St. Louis Circuit Court judge had previously ordered the release of the internal affairs records, but an appellate court gave individual officers the opportunity to sue for continued privacy. That resulted in several more years of litigation that eventually brought the issue back to a local trial court.

In April, a group of officers showed up at a hearing to make their case against disclosure, their badges and name tags removed to prevent public identification. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has spoken out against the officers’ misconduct but said it did not rise to a criminal offense.

Dierker acknowledged the officers’ concern in his ruling by noting that “the court observes that the officers involved … are not bad police officers, but several of them succumbed to the temptation (to which none of us in public service is immune) to use an incident of their office for private purposes.”

But he also wrote that disclosure of the “misfeasance” is “an unfortunate but necessary consequence” of a higher expectation placed on police officers.

ACLU Missouri legal director Tony Rothert called on the city police department and its officers to end the seven-year legal battle.

“The court has gone further today (than the previous ruling) and said there is a constitutional right,” he said. “It’s time for the police department to comply.”

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