The right of citizens to seek information from their government is a bedrock principle upon which the American democracy rests. In times of stress and when the citizenry has concerns about the actions taken by governmental officials, transparency from those who govern is most critical.
After the tragic death of E.J. Bradford, Jr., the ACLU of Alabama sought ways to help our community process its grief for E.J. and channel legitimate concerns that government officials might not learn from the tragedy. As we discussed our role, we decided that helping the community gain access to information that would shed light upon the tragedy and its root causes was the best way for us to lend support.
That is why we partnered with the Alabama NAACP and E.J. Bradford’s family to craft Open Records Requests seeking information about the Use of Force that caused his death. In sending those requests, we hoped that the government officials entrusted with our safety would promote healing by being transparent. We hoped that they would give us, and the public, the information to draw independent conclusions about not just EJ’s death, but how others might be spared.
We sent those requests to the Attorney General and to Hoover Police Chief, Nick Derzis. In doing so, we hoped that having closed their investigation, we might be able to evaluate the evidence that Attorney General Marshall’s report relied upon. Sadly, as our lawsuit spells out, those requests for information were largely denied by the Attorney General and to date, have gone unanswered by the Hoover Chief of Police.
That is why the ACLU of Alabama, the Alabama NAACP and E.J. Bradford’s parents sued today. We sued because the principles of openness that prevent our government from trampling the rights of its citizens require us to press the issue. We sued because an open and transparent government promotes cohesion and trust amongst citizens. We sued because in the minds of many in the community, there are still unresolved questions about E.J. Bradford’s death.
Providing the information to resolve those questions will help the community heal. The first step on the path towards the changes that would prevent our community from experiencing this pain in the future is a full and transparent disclosure. We invite the two defendants to join us on that path.
More information about the E.J. Bradford lawsuit is here: aclualabama.org/justiceforej