Save yourself time and tedium with MuckRock’s multirequest feature

Save yourself time and tedium with MuckRock’s multirequest feature

Want to FOIA a lot of agencies fast? Try multirequest

Written by and
Edited by JPat Brown

One day you may find yourself comfortably cruising down the information superhighway, a question in your mind percolating into a public records request, when you suddenly realize, “I want to send this exact request to another agency, too.”

“In fact, I want to send this to this exact request to multiple agencies.”

“Oh, no, I want to send this to a lot of agencies.”

Fear not, fair factfinder. Drafting your requests can be more efficient than you know! Though there may be lots of reasons you’d like to do this - a survey of police use of force policies, say, or a nationwide look at drone usage - MuckRock has one easy way to turn your single effort into a cornucopia of information.

It’s called a multirequest.

For mere mortals, this endeavor was once a self-imposed lingchi-level exercise in organization and patience. Let’s say you want to file the same request to all the police departments in a single state. Not only would you have to track down contact information on all these agencies, but then you’d have to send the same email- or even worse, mail the same letter- to each of them. That’s really challenging (i.e. time-consuming), and it’s a big part of the reason that FOIA audits are so few and far between.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing, but to multiple agencies at the same time? It would, and it is, because it’s already 100% possible.

By using our database of agencies and automatically including legal boilerplate based on jurisdiction, MuckRock makes filing one-off requests really easy.

When filing a request, you’ll notice this question in the top right corner of the page: “Want to send a multirequest?” If you’re one of our Professional subscribers, you’ll see a link that says “Click here.” If you’re not, you’ll see a link asking you to upgrade your account before going further. Sorry! But it’s a feature so darn powerful that we keep it a little locked down (“with great power comes great responsibility” and all that).

Once on the multirequest form, it couldn’t be simpler. Fill out your request information like you always do, but then keep adding agencies to your heart’s content. Clicking Submit will create a draft, which you can send off to agencies when you’re ready. That’ll take the multirequest and turn it into however-many standalone MuckRock requests. Blammo!

We’ve already filed multirequests to discover solitary confinement policies and procedures in all 50 states, request use of force policies from the biggest police departments in the country, and held a March Madness tournament for FOIA officers. We’re excited to see what other uses you find for this feature.

Do you have a FOIA project that seems too huge to take on? Let us know, and we’ll figure out how best to help you out. Chances are good that multirequests will end up playing a big part and save you a ton of time that’s better spent investigating.

Happy filing!

Image via Wikimedia Commons