I-Team: City of Huntsville denies request for officer's personnel file

WAAY 31 put in an open records request to check Officer Curtis Mitchell's job record. Mitchell was charged with driving under the influence last week.

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 6:01 PM
Updated: Mar 30, 2018 6:37 AM

WAAY 31 spent the past week asking about a Huntsville police officer charged with driving under the influence.

Wednesday, the City said it won't release the personnel file for Officer Curtis Mitchell.

We know Mitchell joined the force a little more than a year ago, but the City won't release anything else.

In an email the Assistant City Attorney, Edward Blair wrote, ""Law enforcement personnel records are considered to be sensitive material and their release is not in the best interests of the public."

WAAY 31 put in an open records request to check Officer Curtis Mitchell's job record. It's information the state and federal governments say is open to public inspection. It's guaranteed in the First Amendment, but the city of Huntsville disagrees and claimed releasing Mitchell's file after redacting personal information could, "interfere with the effective operations of law enforcement, and therefore, cannot be released to the public."

Nobody with the city could explain how it would interfere with how police do their job. It's part of the reason WAAY 31's I-Team did a series of stories last year about Alabama's Open Record Laws. Several civil rights groups consider them the worst in the country.

While the city is withholding information that should be readily available, WAAY 31did manage to track down the accident report from almost two weeks ago. It revealed Mitchell was vomiting when he crashed at Wall Triana Highway and McCrary Road and had open liquor bottles in his car. We also learned Mitchell joined Huntsville Police a little more than a year ago and just finished his probationary period. He's now on administrative duties and is still collecting a pay check funded by your tax money.

We've followed up and asked the City what makes this case a first amendment exception, and we are still waiting to hear back.

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