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Judge Says CMPD And City Don't Have To Release RNC Contracts For Now

CMPD_June52020.JPG
David Boraks
/
WFAE
CMPD officers blocking a street uptown during a protest June 5, 2020. The ACLU says it wants to know what equipment the city is buying to deal with possible protests during the RNC.

A Mecklenburg County judge says the city of Charlotte and CMPD do not immediately have to release contracts and other public records detailing spending on this month's Republican National Convention. 

The ruling came at the end of a hearing Thursday on a request by the American Civil Liberties Union for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The ACLU had argued the public is entitled to know if CMPD is buying military grade hardware or other security equipment to use at any protests during the convention. 

ACLU Lawyer Daniel Siegel said the request is warranted because of the current national debate over police use of force during protests. 

The ACLU said the city has only turned over a small number of documents since the group first filed a public records request nine months ago. 

Judge Casey Viser at Mecklenburg County Superior Court agreed with CMPD's argument that the release could disclose sensitive information about security plans.

"When we're dealing with security information, the balancing of the equities based on everything that's been presented does not favor the (ACLU)," Viser said at the end of the hearing, which was held by videoconference.

Siegel argued that CMPD would be entitled to redact anything related to security planning.  "We are not asking for sensitive security information that might show how the city might respond to a specific threat," he said. "We really just want to know what the city is buying, who the city is buying from, how much it might cost, and who the city is collaborating with."

But CMPD lawyer Roger McCalman said those are exactly the items that CMPD says are protected by the law. He said a redacted contract would have only boilerplate language and no specifics. 

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings has said he would release the information after the convention. 

Viser said the delay would not harm the ACLU or the public. Despite the ruling, the ACLU can continue to pursue the case, though any final decision won't come until well after the convention. 

The ACLU had filed the suit in June, and requested Thursday's hearing in hopes that records would be released before the convention. The event has been scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic, and now is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the start date of the Republican National Convention. 

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