Drawing the Transparency Line in the Sand

Should the public have access to covid-19 and police disciplinary records? If so, where should the line be drawn between transparency, and protecting the rights of individual/private citizens?

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University of Washington to pay nearly $100K to The Seattle Times in public records settlement

The University of Washington [UW] has agreed to pay $97,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by The Seattle Times, which alleged the university failed to provide public records a reporter requested about coronavirus testing of student-athletes.

The reporter, Mike Reicher, requested emails of the UW’s head of sports medicine last year to learn more about the Pac-12’s decision to partner with a manufacturer of rapid coronavirus tests.

UW said it did not find any responsive records. But The Times obtained emails that included the UW official’s emails from another Pac-12 university and provided them to the UW to show that its search was inadequate.

The Times, represented by attorney Katherine George, sued in January. The paper argued that the university’s response violated the state Public Records Act, which applies to public agencies like UW.

UW denies that it withheld records and says it was an “oversight” that they were missed in its initial search. In the settlement reached this month, UW did not admit liability but said it was taking steps to improve its response to records requests.

Read More | Seattle Times

Transparency and Trust: Choosing & Using Technology to Bridge the Divides

62% of people say serving as a local police officer has become more difficult. This is according to a national survey conducted by our partners at Veritone.

Join us December 14th @1:00 CST for a panel discussion in which we’ll cover the impact and application of this 3000 person survey and other data sources on those choosing technology to manage requests for law enforcement records.

Learn more and Register


Maryland police navigate new law opening public access to disciplinary records

During the past five years, the Maryland State Police found that two of its officers used excessive force in interactions with citizens, data from the agency shows. Neither made headlines, at least in part because journalists and the public had no access to records documenting alleged misconduct.

That’s changing under a new state law that opens many such records to public view. The law has ushered in uncertain times for departments and officers concerned about what complaints or missteps could stain their reputations. But it also begins a process of accountability that activists have long called for, and that many experts say ultimately is good for both the public’s perception of policing and for officers themselves.

In the weeks since the new law took effect Oct. 1, departments have scrambled to respond to requests for documents. Some are sorting through file drawers or cardboard boxes. Others are combing through spreadsheets, separating what still may not be releasable from what is.

Police unions opposed Maryland’s law, as they have with similar laws in other states, arguing that disclosure of the records would invade officers’ privacy, impede their employment opportunities and subject them to unfair smears and harassment.

Read More | Washington Post


Virginia Supreme Court takes up court access case in fatal police shooting

The Virginia Supreme Court has taken up a case that centers on balancing the rights of the accused versus the public’s access to criminal trials that stems from a fatal police shooting and the confidentiality of police internal affairs records.

The appeal was filed by the Daily Press, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and reporter Peter Dujardin against the state over decisions made by a circuit court judge to close a hearing and to seal documents in the pending second-degree murder trial of Albin Trevor Pearson, a Newport News police officer who allegedly killed a man in 2019 while attempting to make an arrest for a nonviolent crime.

“The Commonwealth’s motion to close proceedings involving murder charges brought against a police officer and its filing of related judicial records under seal raise issues of the utmost importance to the public, particularly given the ongoing national debate about the use of force by police,” argued the newspapers’ lawyers, Brett A. Spain and Bethany Fogerty, in their petition to the state Supreme Court.

Read More | Richmond Times Dispatch


Grants Office webcast: Leveraging ARPA local fiscal recovery funds to purchase public records management software

On November 18, the Grants Office was joined by guests from GovQA and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to help you leverage ARPA Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to purchase public records management software for your organization. In this webcast, we covered the broad basics of these funds, their eligible expenses, and discussed some of the sample use cases aligned with the Treasury Department guidelines. Additionally, we covered the best practices for putting together your stimulus proposal to support your public records project.

Watch the Grants Office Webinar

Read More | GovQA

GovQA's Upcoming Events

GovQA’s hosts and moderates events to create and expand opportunities for state and local government agency members to discuss the challenges they face.

Department of Transportation Roundtable

Transparency and Trust: Choosing & Using Technology to Bridge the Divides

Department of Corrections Roundtable

See All Upcoming Events

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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