What Police Records Should Be Public?

Should the public have access to body camera footage, police disciplinary records or use of force records? The debate continues as states seek balance between privacy and transparency.

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Featured

Maryland enacts landmark police overhaul, first state to repeal police bill of rights

Maryland enacted historic police accountability measures Saturday, [April 10] becoming the first state to repeal its powerful Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and setting new rules for when police may use force and how they are investigated and disciplined.

The Democratic-majority legislature dealt Republican Gov. Larry Hogan a sharp rebuke, overriding his vetoes of measures that raise the bar for officers to use force; give civilians a role in police discipline for the first time; restrict no-knock warrants; mandate body cameras; and open some allegations of police wrongdoing for public review.

Each bill had been hailed by criminal justice advocates as having the potential to make policing in the state fairer and more transparent.

Read More | The Washington Post

Legislation

Arkansas bill on public agencies' footage costs advances

A bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to charge records-requesters for costs associated with reviewing and redacting audio and video footage is headed to the Arkansas House.

The House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs recommended passage of Senate Bill 346 by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, on a divided voice vote Wednesday, [Apr. 7].

The legislation permits state and local public safety agencies, jails and dispatch centers to charge requesters up to $20 per hour for each hour of running time of audio, video or audiovisual media provided to the requester, beyond the first three hours of personnel time required to fill the request.

Sheriffs and the Association of Arkansas Counties say SB346 would help with transparency by offsetting the strain of fulfilling large requests, while open-records advocates say such charges are unprecedented in state law and would be a burden to the average Arkansan.

Read More | Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Litigation

Oakland, California sued over records on secret police union meetings

The Coalition for Police Accountability and its coordinator Rashidah Grinage sued [Oakland, CA] in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday [Apr. 8] for failing to release records on meet-and-confer sessions with Oakland’s police union last year. The meetings were being held as the city was crafting a 2020 ballot measure aimed at strengthening the powers of Oakland’s police commission, a seven-member civilian oversight board.

The coalition claims in its lawsuit the city has a “pattern and practice” of not responding fully or appropriately to requests for documents as required by the California Public Records Act.

Read More | Courthouse News Service

Peer Resource

Webinar: Responding to Video/Audio FOIL Requests in the Northeast

There is some wisdom in the adage, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” This became prevalent in a recent case decided by the California Supreme Court, in which the Court ruled a requester was justified in objecting to being charged for costs to redact requested information. The ruling hinged on the interpretation of the word “extraction,” and while quibbling over the semantics of a word may seem petty, it proved critical in this case.

Because the legislature’s intent wasn’t clear, and likely also because the statute was outdated in terms of how electronic data is handled, the Court decided that “extraction” did not include redaction. This case is a clear example of how other jurisdictions can end up in the same situation, depending on the statute language and circumstances of the case.

Read More | GovQA

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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