This week in the news: Police complaints, misconduct records, body/dashcam footage and more
States continue to debate what types of police records should be covered under city, state, and county public record laws.
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Maryland lawyers and lawmakers spar over access to police misconduct records
[Maryland’s] Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held its first of three work sessions to address whether or not certain misconduct investigation records should be available for inspection under the Public Information Act.
Under current law, these documents are considered personnel records, which are mandatorily denied when requested for inspection. Under [Senator] Carter’s bill, they would be discretionarily denied.
SB178 seeks to make officer misconduct records, including internal affairs investigatory records, hearing records and disciplinary decision records disclosable to the public under certain circumstances.
The bill’s language excludes these records from being disclosed if they interfere with law enforcement proceedings, interfere with someone’s right to a fair trial, inappropriately violate someone’s privacy, disclose the identity of a confidential source, influence an investigation or put an individual in harm’s way.
Read More | Maryland Matters
Complexity of Public Record Requests has increased 124% over the last 3 years!
Download the PiPRIndex to see important trends in complexity affecting state, county and local governments.
South Carolina's bill to create FOIA review office would withhold police dashcam video from public
A [South Carolina] state representative who proposed a Freedom of Information Act review office to hear grievances when agencies withhold information, has introduced a bill that also calls for police dashcam footage to be exempt from public disclosure.
The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Bill Taylor, said he felt the dashcam footage is like body-camera footage — which is already exempt from public disclosure — in that there can be things captured on video that might improperly invade someone’s privacy.
South Carolina Press Association Executive Director Bill Rogers said the proposal is a “huge concern” in access to public records and police transparency.
Read More | Greenville News
Complaints against Reno, Nevada police officers are deemed to be “confidential personnel documents”
The Reno Police Department recently denied a public records order placed by This Is Reno after months of stalling and ignoring requirements mandated by Nevada law.
This Is Reno placed an order in July for copies of complaints filed against police officers, but Assistant City Attorney Robert Bony said those complaints, made by citizens, are confidential personnel documents.
He said such complaints are similar to “’personnel files and medical files and similar files’ when the disclosure of such information ‘would constitute clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy…’ The purpose of the exemption is to ‘protect individuals from public disclosure of intimate details of their lives.’”
Other citizen complaints to local governments, however, are public records once received by the agency.
Read More | This is Reno
Port Townsend School District in Washington settles lawsuit over public records
The Port Townsend School Board [in Washington State] voted unanimously to approve a $12,500 settlement with Eric Hood to have his lawsuit against the school district dropped.
Hood was the subject of an in-depth story in The Leader in December which detailed more than a hundred lawsuits that he has filed against school districts, cities, towns and other small municipalities in Washington state.
“He typically picks on school districts in small towns. He has made quite a good living at it,” Jeffrey S. Myers, an Olympia-based attorney who has represented small cities against lawsuits filed by Hood, told The Leader earlier.
By Myers’ estimation, Hood has pulled in more than $820,000 from cases involving the Public Records Act since 2014.
Read More | The Leader
Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation launches new open records portal
Texans can now accept and process requests for records using a new online portal. The Texas Department of Licensing says the TDLR Open Records Center [powered by GovQA] is quicker compared to emailing, faxing and mailing in open requests. Here’s a list of the self-service options:
- Submit a request,
- Track its progress,
- Access correspondence related to the request,
- Pay for records online if expenses are incurred in fulfilling the request (and as allowed under the Texas Public Information Act), and
- Download the requested records once they are available.
Read More | CW39 Houston News
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.