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Hearing set for police, refusing to allow the release of discipline records

HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut officials to hear the arguments Tuesday on whether the police can refuse to say whether a trooper and two sergeants were disciplined on allegations that they seek revenge against a protester at a sobriety checkpoint by arresting him on false criminal charges — an encounter that was recorded by the protester’s camera.

The police rejected requests, pursuant to Connecticut and the public records laws earlier this year by The Associated Press and the Journal Inquirer for the copy of the internal affairs investigation report as well as the results of the probe, including the question of whether the officers were disciplined. The AP and the newspaper appealed to the Freedom of Information of the Commission, that a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

The Department of Emergency services and public Protection, which oversees the state police, is citing “invasion of privacy” concerns of the officers, and the troopers’ contract of employment. The AP and the Journal Inquirer state that citizens have the right to know whether public employees are disciplined for misconduct.

The research is focused on the encounter between the protesters, Michael Picard, of East Hartford, and the three officers — Soldier John Baron, Master Sgt. Patrick Torneo and Sgt. John Jacobi — at a sobriety checkpoint in West Hartford on Sept. 11, 2015.

According to a lawsuit filed by Picard, the officers trumped-up charges against him, not knowing that they were recorded by the camera after they were seized. The officers also seized Picard is legally carried gun.

The troopers can be heard, but not seen on Picard, the video-recording of the call of a Hartford police officer to see if he or she had a “grudge” against Picard, the start of an investigation of him in a police database and the discussion of an earlier protest Picard organized in the state Capitol, the lawsuit said.

After finding out that Picard has a valid gun permit, Barone tells the other troopers, they have a “cover” of themselves and Torneo or Jacobi said, “let’s give him something,” the lawsuit said.

The troopers wrote Picard violation tickets for illegal use of a highway by a pedestrian area and creating a disturbance of the peace charges that were later dismissed in court.

In court documents, the officials denied allegations of misconduct, said they acted reasonably and in good faith and claimed the government’s exemption from liability.

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