Virginia State Police refuses to disclose publicly funded weapons and vehicles

The Virginia Department of State Police has refused to disclose the types of patrol rifles and other tactical weapons and vehicles it possesses in a decision criticized by civil liberty groups and open-government advocates. The Rutherford Institute in Albemarle County, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Virginia Coalition of Open Government questioned why state police would not release basic descriptions of their taxpayer-funded firearms stock and equipment.

“Transparency in government is the basis of democratic freedom,” said John W. Whitehead, a constitutional lawyer and president of the Rutherford Institute. “If the American public is paying for it, and we’re supposedly the masters, then the servants should tell us what they have if we need to know.”

State police twice denied Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch seeking complete inventories of the department’s weapons and armored vehicles. The agency provided a partial list that included handguns, shotguns and several vehicles, but denied all the rest, citing an FOIA exemption that allows discretionary release of “specific tactical plans,” which the newspaper did not request. Continue>>>