In the case of Spinks et al. v. The Township of Clinton et al., 52-2-1684, The Township of Clinton sought to bar the release of an internal affairs investigation of the police department that was submitted to the trial court as part and parcel to a summary judgment proceeding. The Township argued that the disclosure of these types of documents are forbidden by law and under common law principles of fairness, the township’s interest in confidentiality outweigh the public’s interest in accessing the records.
In making this decision the trial court applied the balancing test articulated in the matter of Hammock v. Hoffman-La Roche Inc. 142 N.J. 356 (1995). After applying the balancing test that weighs the township’s interest in confidentiality versus the public’s interest in accessing the records, the trial court held that the records could be released but only after all personal information was redacted from the records and with held. In examining this issue on appeal, The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, remanded the case to the trial court for further redaction of the records for confidentiality purposes that was consistent with the trial court’s previous ruling.
This case stands for the principle that in certain circumstances internal affairs reports and records can be released to the public, however only after the court conducts an "in camera" review of the records and makes a decision concerning the redaction of personal information that will be necessary to preserve privacy. Therefore, if you are looking for confidential records and reports that were produced by internal affairs, you may be able to get your hands on them in certain circumstances.