Audit of Maine police agencies produces inconsistent results; 1 in 5 didn’t respond

When law enforcement agencies across Maine were asked to turn over records of complaints and discipline, some departments provided a bundle of records, some provided basic information — and one in five did not respond at all. That’s according to an audit conducted by the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, a member of the National…

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Many police personnel records remain secret, despite public pressure for transparency

Despite public pressure to make police misconduct and complaint records available to the public, many personnel records remain secret. In some jurisdictions, because of state laws or by contract, officers can conceal their personnel files, including records of wrongdoing. “Secrecy of police discipline has been a huge problem,” Sam Walker, an emeritus professor at the…

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Advocates for accountability applaud Maryland law that opens police disciplinary records

A new law in Maryland opens to the public more police disciplinary records.  According to a Nov. 24, 2021, report in The Washington Post, the new law has left police departments scrambling to respond to new records requests.  Advocates for open records and police accountability applaud the law.  “The inability to obtain records in police…

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What’s required to unlock records? Often it’s opening a checkbook and hitting the open road

While much of the world runs on digital transactions, it takes an actual paper checkbook and a lot of travel to unlock open records in many small agencies and police departments. A Michigan editor, who is leading a reporting project into police responses at a music festival at which four people died, found herself driving…

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Law enforcement would benefit everyone by democratizing its data, column argues

Democratizing law enforcement data could benefit everyone — the police and the public they serve — argue Nancy La Vigne and Roy L. Austin Jr. of the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing in an Aug. 26, 2021, guest column for The Washington Post. “We cannot fix a problem we do not fully understand,” they…

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Exemptions to records laws allow authorities to stifle talk of police reform, paper says

Exemptions to state public records laws allow police departments to conceal vast amounts of information and stifle meaningful discussion about police reform and accountability. According to a Washington Post analysis: All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow police departments to withhold records they consider investigatory. And in 35 states, police misconduct records are…

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NFOIC joins amicus brief supporting release of police internal affairs records in New Jersey

The National Freedom of Information Coalition and 23 other organizations joined a Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press amicus brief supporting the release of police internal affairs records in New Jersey. In July 2019, a retired New Jersey police officer submitted a New Jersey Open Public Records Act request seeking access to police internal…

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‘Antidote for the distrust in law enforcement is transparency,’ California coalition leader writes

Opening police records to routine and systematic public scrutiny is the way to stop officer misconduct, argues First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder in an op-ed published in The Mercury News. Snyder wrote in support of California bills to enhance police transparency, including SB 16, which would require disclosure of records related to misconduct….

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News Leaders Association honors First Amendment Award winners for advancing Freedom of Information principles

Journalists uncovered decades of New York police disciplinary records, detailed a university’s handling of sexual misconduct claims, and investigated deaths inside detention facilities. Their efforts have been recognized by the News Leaders Association, which announced its 2021 First Amendment Award recipients on May 12, 2021. The awards recognize “the best journalism advancing Freedom of Information…

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