Investigative Reporters and Editors has named the Massachusetts State Police as the winner of its third-annual Golden Padlock Award recognizing the most secretive U.S. agency or individual.

The Massachusetts State Police habitually go to extraordinary lengths to thwart public records requests, protect law enforcement officers and public officials who violate the law and block efforts to scrutinize how the department performs its duties. It normally takes months or longer to respond to news media FOI requests. Requests for basic documents routinely produce refusals, large portions of blacked out documents or demands for tens of thousands of dollars in unjustified fees. Among them, a $42,750 fee for the log of its public records requests and a $62,220 fee for records of crashes involving police cruisers sought by the Boston Globe. A Bay State Examiner reporter was told to pay a $710.50 “non-refundable research fee” to get an estimate of the fee he would have to pay to obtain copies of internal affairs reports. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette concluded: “The Massachusetts State Police is a habitual offender – verging on a career criminal – when it comes to breaking a state law intended to ensure government is accountable to the people it serves.”

“True commitment, no matter how offensive to the public interest, must be begrudgingly recognized,” said Robert Cribb, chair of IRE’s Golden Padlock committee. “The Massachusetts State Police has distinguished itself as a agency unwavering in its willingness to ensure citizens are protected from the truth.”

IRE invited a representative from the winning agency to attend and receive the honor. No response was received.

To learn about the 2015 finalists, click here.