Access to police-camera footage must improve, open-government advocates say

Government emails, metadata also top list of FOI-tech issues that leave us in the dark

FOR RELEASE: March 14, 2022

Contact: Todd Fettig, NFOIC executive director 

Phone: 352-294-7082   Email:

March 14, 2022 — The public too often is being denied access to police body- and dash-cam footage. This ranks as the most critical issue related to freedom of information and technology, according to members of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, the nation’s largest network of state and local open-government advocates. 

Other critical FOI-technology issues include public access to government emails and access to metadata embedded in electronic records.

The critical issues were identified in a February 2022 survey of state and local open-government coalitions, asking the groups to evaluate critical freedom of information issues in technology. In all, leaders representing 31 of the nation’s 40 state coalitions (78% response) completed the survey. 

The National Freedom of Information Coalition this year is examining freedom of information through the lens of technology. 

The state coalitions identified these eight FOI-tech issues as the most critical.
(Mean average on a 1-4 scale, with 1 indicating no problem and 4 an extreme problem.)

  1. Access to police body-cam and dash-cam video. (3.08)
  2. Access to government emails. (2.79)
  3. Access to metadata embedded in electronic records. (2.77)
  4. Access to relational databases for citizens to analyze. (2.73)
  5. Affordable fees for accessing government data. (2.71)
  6. Proactive posting of government records online by agencies. (2.69) 
  7. Destruction by agencies of electronic records/data, even though storage is not an issue. (2.63)
  8. Efficient online platforms for requesters to submit/track requests. (2.56)

“Advances in technology have the potential to enhance government transparency and allow greater access to the records that we, the public, own,” said NFOIC Executive Director Todd Fettig. “But governments need to catch up. Outdated technology and practices, in addition to sometimes outright secrecy, make public records harder to obtain, which erodes the public trust, leaves people in the dark, and undermines our democracy. The intersection of FOI and technology gives us an opportunity to turn a corner, from a culture of secrecy to a culture of transparency.” 

The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a national 501(c)3 non-profit, nonpartisan organization of state and regional affiliates representing most states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Through its programs, services and national member network, NFOIC promotes press freedom, legislative and administrative reforms and litigation to ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments and public institutions. 

Join us for Sunshine Week

  • Register for NFOIC’s Sunshine Week webinar series, “Lighting the Way: Illuminating Information and Innovation,” featuring two online sessions.
    • “Igniting Inspiration: Using FOI to Bring Data to Light and to Life,” 2 p.m. Eastern, Monday, March 14, 2022, presented by Lam Thuy Vo, data journalist in residence at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. 
    • “Sparking Discovery: Using FOI and Big Data to Tell Stories, Build Community, and Solve Problems,” 3 p.m. Eastern, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, presented by David Cuillier, NFOIC board president and University of Arizona associate professor; Grace Cheng, director of government practice, practical law, at Thomson Reuters; and Ashlee Fujawa, co-founder and head of community of Uncovered, a cold case platform, and NFOIC partner.