Pennsylvania - Record Layout of Traffic Stop Data

Big Local News filed this request with the Pennsylvania State Police of Pennsylvania.
Tracking #




From: MuckRock

To Whom It May Concern:

I am the managing editor of Peninsula Press, a multimedia news website based out of Stanford University in California. We are working on collecting data on traffic stops and searches made by state patrols across the country, but I'm initially gathering information about what datapoints each state collects.

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, I hereby request the following records:

I’d like to please request the record layout (the format of a data record, which includes the name, type and size of each field in the record) or data dictionary for your state’s records of traffic stops made on your roads. (What are all the datapoints you collect and keep record of when traffic stops are made?)

The requested data will be analyzed, eventually be made available to the general public and be used for editorial purposes. This request is not being made for commercial purposes. We kindly ask the request be filled electronically — via Excel or another database format. Data can be emailed to or shared via a Dropbox link. In the event data has to be sent physically on a CD or thumb drive, please mail to Peninsula Press, Stanford Journalism Program, 450 Serra Mall, Building 120, Stanford, CA 94305.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Vignesh Ramachandran

Vignesh Ramachandran
Managing Editor, Peninsula Press
Stanford Journalism Program
phone 650.723.0703
physical mail 450 Serra Mall, Building 120, Stanford, CA 94305

From: Pennsylvania State Police

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.


To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on July 2, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2015-0470.

Thank you for your help.

From: Ferguson, Lissa

Good Morning Mr. Ramachandran,

Your RTKL request (2015-0470) was received July 2, 2015. A five day interim response was placed in the mail July 9, 2015. A final response
will be placed in the mail on or before August 10, 2015.

Thank you

From: Pennsylvania State Police

The request has been rejected, with the agency stating that the information or document(s) requested are exempt from disclosure.

From: Vignesh Ramachandran

To the Office of Open Records,

We are respectfully appealing the denial of a request for a record layout from the Pennsylvania State Police.

The State Police cited two key issues, both of which are not accurate.

For some background, we are requesting a record layout or data dictionary of what fields of information are collected by the state patrol during traffic stops.

Kim Grant, the deputy agency open records officer, cited the following reasons for the denial:

First, she said the request seeks non-public records. In part, she suggested that the data fields are the confidential and proprietary property of the Iowa Department of Transportation. Interestingly, the Iowa Department of Transportation doesn’t believe the fields are private information as that entity already provided us with their data record layout (data dictionary) for the information Iowa collects during state patrol traffic stops. Note, we are not asking for the software, but rather a description of the information collected.

Secondly, Ms. Grant said that the information may include intelligence gathering and so would be exempt. Again, with this request, we are not asking for specific investigatory documents, but asking for the fields of data that are collected at traffic stops. I will also add that traffic incidents are public record under Pennsylvania law.

In reality, the information we seek is public record. We are asking for the simple data dictionary of what the state patrol collects during traffic stops. While subsection 67.701(b)(16) of the Right-to-Know Act does permit withholding certain law enforcement records that might compromise criminal investigations, traffic reports are specifically excluded and are, by the plain terms of the Act, public records. But to be clear, this request does not seek any individually identifiable information about any particular traffic case. Rather, the request seeks only generic records reflecting what data is stored regarding traffic offenses and how it is organized.

Thank you for your consideration of this appeal.


Vignesh Ramachandran