This week’s FOIA roundup: In pursuit of police records

This week’s FOIA roundup: In pursuit of police records

Across the country, people are demanding more police transparency and accountability. Here’s how you can help.

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

In this week’s roundup, a look at policing transparency efforts around the country, as well as ways that you can help bring transparency to your own community. For previous roundups, go here. Have news, a FOIA job opening, or something else we should have on our radar? Let us know!

Requesting records after the repeal of 50-a

For many years, victims of police violence in New York, their families, and advocacy groups have been urging the state to remove police record protections in the state’s Civil Rights law, specifically those in section 50-a, which kept personnel records and other discipline-related documents confidential.

Last week, though, amidst nationwide protests of police brutality and strong, unusually widespread public support, the New York legislature passed a bill to repeal the 50-a protections. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law on Friday, removing that particular barrier to access.

Now, MuckRock, in partnership with the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and with the legal support of attorney Cory Morris, is undertaking one of our largest projects yet. We’re requesting all of the disciplinary records from each police department in New York state. It’s a large undertaking, and one that we believe important to ensuring that families and residents get transparency and justice.

You can find the new requests as they’re filed on the project page.

DIY police records requests

MuckRock’s Michael Morisy and Beryl Lipton recently joined Freddy Martinez, policy analyst at Open The Government, for an introductory training on public records for police accountability. You can find more resources about police records on MuckRock and a recording of that training here.

Feeling inspired but not where to start? Request your community’s police settlements by filling out this form:

We’ll send you a note when it’s filed!

Justice for Breonna

Attorneys for the family of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman murdered in her bed by officers while she was sleeping, [said in court yesterday]( that records from the coroner’s office and the Police Merit Board are being unlawfully withheld.

It’s high time for more police accountability

The National Freedom of Information Coalition and more than 50 other groups released a joint statement last week in support of increased police transparency to address injustice and the public’s lack of trust in the nation’s officers. (NFOIC) .

The White House, CDC vs. Voice of America

In the wake of a FOIA revelation that the Centers for Disease Control, “as a rule,” does not respond to interview requests from the country’s tax-funded news organization, the director and deputy of Voice of America have resigned.

Will the Justice in Policing Act remove some police transparency?

The recently-introduced Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is meant to overhaul policing operations in the U.S. but also includes an exemption from disclosure for officer names. Thanks to Adam Marshall who pointed this out on Twitter.

See something we should include in our next update? Please let us know.

Header image via PXFuel