Posts Tagged ‘police’


FOI Fail of the Week: Two reporters arrested at D.C. public meeting

Even at a public meeting, journalists aren’t always free to report a story as they see fit.

U.S. Park Police officers arrested two reporters at a June 22 Taxi Commission meeting in Washington, D.C. A commission staff member told the officers to make the arrests, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Peter Tucker of thefightback.org was arrested for taking photographs of the meeting, while Jim Epstein of Reason TV was later arrested for filming the initial arrest.

Check out Epstein’s personal account of the incident.

They were arrested for “disorderly conduct and unlawful entry.” But “unlawful entry” of a public meeting?

D.C.’s open meetings law doesn’t include specific provisions addressing the photographing or filming of public meetings, according to a Washington Post blog.

Unless taking photos or video of a public meeting specifically violates an area’s public meetings law, reporters shouldn’t be punished – and certainly shouldn’t be arrested – for doing so.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: Disciplined cops’ names withheld in Seattle, N.H. city’s lawsuits go public

Secret in Seattle

Despite dissension from the city government, the Seattle Police Department is keeping the names of officers who’ve faced disciplinary action secret.

A labor arbitrator demanded the names be withheld at the behest of the city’s police officers union.

The City of Seattle said it may pursue a court appeal of the decision. The case may depend on the Police Department’s legal responsibilities under Washington disclosure laws.

The department is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for its treatment of minorities and use of force.

It has also been criticized for being too secretive and has been disclosing more information on internal investigations in an attempt to shore up public trust.

Keeping the names of officers disciplined for misconduct, however, could throw a wrench in efforts to foster public faith in the Police Department.

N.H. town makes city lawsuits public

City officials in Danville, N.H., have decided to make town lawsuits easily accessible to the public.

Lawsuits both won and lost by the city are to be posted on the city website.

The city board voted unanimously to make the resolved lawsuits public.

In Danville this week, the open government tally so far is Transparency: 1, Secrecy: 0.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

Complaints against police ruled open in New Mexico

A New Mexico appeals court ruled Tuesday that complaints against police officers are public records, according to an Associated Press story.

The judges were unanimous in their decision that complaints against police officers are not confidential “personnel” records, as argued by the state Department of Public Safety. Too often public agencies claim that complaints and disciplinary action against public employees are “personnel” issues and therefore exempt from public disclosure. While this is the case in some states, in many states that information is public by statute or case law (as in New Mexico, now!).

Whether your state laws make this information secret or not, fight for them to be made public. It just makes sense. When public employees mess up and violate their trust with their employers, the people, then the bosses (the people) deserve to know!

FOI Links: Obama’s fight against media leaks

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