FOIA Roundup: Federal overreach, personal emails and your easy options for police accountability

FOIA Roundup: Federal overreach, personal emails and your easy options for police accountability

Our weekly update of the latest in FOIA and transparency

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

As the national COVID-19 death toll passes the official 150,000 mark, the country is staring down the possibility of a second round of shutdowns. Major U.S. cities, however, have another challenger they’re preparing to confront: federal agents sent to subdue the residents in the streets challenging racism and police brutality. FOIA can help better understand the government’s crackdown.

See something we should have included in this week’s FOIA update? Let us know. Want these updates sent right to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter.

Figuring out more about federal crackdown in America’s cities

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation into the use of DHS agents against protestors in Portland, Oregon, which has raised the ire of protestors, civil rights advocates, city leaders, and other DHS employees.

A lack of light in Honolulu

Employees in Hawaii may not be getting enough light, Christina Jedra of Civil Beat learned after requesting employee complaints submitted in the office of Honolulu’s acting prosecutor.

Using a personal email address for official government business doesn’t trump transparency, court rules

Wilbur Ross is the latest federal official found committing what should really be a pretty familiar faux pas by now: conducting government business via personal email. Democracy Forward submitted a FOIA request in 2017 asking for the Commerce Secretary’s communications via a nongovernmental account, but the search conducted never actually included his personal account, to which emails had obviously been sent, based on other records. A federal judge recently ruled that Wilbur’s personal account would now be subject to discovery in a lawsuit about the FOIA violation.

Read more from Jerry Lambe on Law & Crime.

Private prisons

U.S. Marshals needs to improve its contract oversight, according to an audit by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General of the USMS contract with GEO Group for a private prison in Georgia.

Found using FOIA

Two minutes to greater police transparency

We have a few active Assignments designed to help the public learn more about police work near them.

Your Assignment:

Choose at least one of the following Assignments and add your local police department to the investigation!

Does your local police department have access to facial recognition?

If an officer is accused of domestic violence, can he or she stay a cop?

•. Does “literally every police department” own unmarked vehicles?

What’s your police department’s policy on using deadly force?

Is your local PD citing COVID-19 to deny transparency?

How much is being spent to settle police misconduct?

Have you seen a RoboCop in your neighborhood?

Is your local government using drones?

Image via Department of Homeland Security