Celebrating Heroes: Thank You Public Servants
An unsung part of the job for people working in nearly every government agency, including law enforcement, and public health departments, is responding to requests for information contained in public records. Recognizing their work is especially important this year as public service employees have had to scale many barriers to keep communities informed and functioning during the pandemic.
Thank you for all that you do!
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Bill to block the release of police records passes New York State Legislature
A bill that would make it easier for police to withhold disciplinary records passed the New York State Assembly and Senate.
The bill undermines the 2020 repeal of article 50-a, a law that allowed police departments in New York to withhold disciplinary records.
The goal of the repeal was to make policing more transparent and to make police more accountable to public scrutiny.
Despite the article’s repeal, police argued that releasing disciplinary records could impede ongoing investigations and refused to turn over disciplinary records.
The excuse was used so frequently, that the State Legislature mandated judges review records blocked for this reason.
If signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the new bill would remove this judicial review. It would again give police departments a blanket excuse to withhold information from the public.
Read More | Audacy News
Public Records ROI
Your budgets may be shrinking, but your FOIA backlog and the threat of litigation aren’t going anywhere.
Now more than ever, government offices need a solution to respond to urgent requests that helps reduce and recover out-of-pocket costs; a system that pays for itself.
Virginia lawmakers vote to open public access to closed police files
Virginians will have a right to see many old police investigative files for the first time after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law [on Mar. 9] changing the state’s public records law.
The new law will force police and sheriffs to release records of investigations that are no longer ongoing. It will also give families even greater access to records about relatives who’ve been killed.
House Bill 2004, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst, passed through the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in late February, largely along party lines. It cleared the House 55-44, with one Republican joining Democrats, and passed the Senate 23-15, with two Republicans voting for it. No Democrat in either chamber voted against it.
Northam, a Democrat, signed the bill Wednesday, [Mar. 9] the last day possible, with little fanfare.
The new law, which takes effect July 1, could begin to end state law enforcement agencies’ longstanding practice of shielding nearly all their files from the public — whether they are incident reports from the past week or case files that haven’t been looked at in decades.
Though the Virginia Freedom of Information Act currently allows police, prosecutors and sheriff’s offices statewide to release such files, the departments almost always say no to all such requests as a matter of policy.
Read More | The Virginian-Pilot
Public access to police records in Maryland uneven, sometimes costly, despite new law
A community group in Montgomery County was asked to pay $95,000 for copies of police discipline and complaint records, which, under a 2021 change in Maryland law, are no longer automatically private.
Public defenders in Baltimore seeking those records have been told to pay as little as $10 to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office but as much as $224,000 to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and nearly $500,000 to the Montgomery County Police Department.
Reporters in Washington and Baltimore and student journalists at the University of Maryland say they have received some internal police discipline records they’ve requested, but also have encountered long delays and huge fees.
Anton’s Law, formally known as the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, went into effect on Oct. 1, 2021. The measure makes internal police discipline and complaint records available to the public, erasing an exemption that had placed them off limits under the Maryland Public Information Act. Until Anton’s Law was enacted, members of the public could not find out if police officers in Maryland had been disciplined for misconduct or were the subject of numerous complaints reviewed by internal police investigators.
But five months since taking effect, Anton’s Law has not yet lived up to its promise.
While some Maryland law enforcement agencies are now providing, upon request, documents that Anton’s Law says are now public records, many departments are struggling to comply with the law. Advocates for police transparency, defense lawyers and journalists say their requests for documents and data have been met with a wide range of responses — and many have not even been acknowledged.
Read More | The Maryland Reporter
In 'huge win' for transparency, New Jersey Supreme Court says settlement agreements are public
New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Monday [March 7] that the public has a right to see settlement agreements with public employees, in part because too often the government is not transparent with taxpayers.
“Public agencies across the state will no longer be able to hide the settlements they enter into with public employees who have engaged in misconduct,” said Attorney CJ Griffin, who litigated the case. “This is a huge win for transparency and government accountability.”
The ruling has broad implications, in that the court decreed settlement agreements can no longer be considered private personnel matters, but are public records that must be disclosed.
Read More | NorthJersey.com
Celebrating unsung heroes on Freedom of Information Day
Every day public servants work to make life better for all of us. They guard our national security, fight crime, work to cure diseases, educate our children, care for veterans, and deliver many other important services to the American people. Public servants are also our neighbors, relatives and friends who live and work in our communities, and they’ve earned our thanks – especially for their heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An unsung part of the job for people working in nearly every government agency, including law enforcement, public safety agencies and health departments, is responding to requests for information contained in public records. While it’s not any agency’s primary mission, dedicated public servants at each agency work hard to keep the public, businesses, the media, and other governments informed and themselves accountable. Recognizing their work is especially important this year as public service employees have had to scale many barriers to keep communities informed and functioning during the pandemic.
Read More | GovQA – Now Part of Granicus
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.
Florida Public Records Roundtable
Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association 2022 ETI & Law Enforcement Expo
Iowa Police Chiefs Association’s 35th Annual Conference
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.