For the Record is your essential weekly guide to the latest on freedom of information: accountability battles, transparency threats, and record wins.

MuckRock is committed to helping members of the public — journalists, researchers, educators, policymakers, and you — make the most of the people's right to know.

Read on for suggestions of how you can use public records for that work and, as always, please share your feedback, your challenges, and your successes. 


Now that you can access records, should you?

Last week, a New York state senator blasted MuckRock’s latest transparency project to access police disciplinary records, calling it an “unintended consequence” of recent legislation designed to allow access to police disciplinary records.

“At a time when localities are struggling to meet their regular expenses because of the crushing impact that COVID-19 has had on their budgets, it is outrageous that they will now be required to devote precious staff time and taxpayer dollars towards searching, copying, faxing and emailing decades-old personnel files containing groundless claims, even those where the officers involved have been deceased for decades,” New York State Sen. George Borrello said in press release after becoming aware of a FOIL request sent by MuckRock to the Town of Cuba, NY, along with every other police department in the states.

The effort to collect and review that information, Borello hypothesized, could disrupt services to the public during the pandemic and could unfairly tarnish police officers’ reputations.

The town itself, however, said it was continuing to process the request without problem. Cuba Police Department Chief Dustin Burch said the department had mailed an acknowledgment letter (certified) and was working on preparing the records for release. You can read more here and check out the rest of the records requests on the project page.

 FOIA 101 

Resources for filers, fresh and veteran alike

MuckRock has a whole collection of guides and resources for the beginning requester and those looking to dig a bit deeper into specific subjects. Check back in later this week for the video from Friday's training, which was focused on using records requests when investigating COVID-19. 

 New York municipalities announce they’ll be making police records public: Following the repeal of New York’s Section 50-a, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city would be creating a database to make public information on police disciplinary proceedings. According to him, the publicly-accessible collection will include firefighter and correctional officer records, which are also affected by the recent changes in the law (New York Daily News)

NYC to release surveillance info: New York City Council approved a plan to require the NYPD to report and evaluate the surveillance technologies it uses, including the safeguards in place to protect the collected information. The Mayor will hold a hearing on the measure July 7. (New York City Council)

Las Vegas PD camera footage cost hikes go live tomorrow:  Beginning July 1, Las Vegas police will be charging $280 for each hour of body camera footage requested by the public, regardless of actual redaction or search time. Transparency experts say the measure is not legal. (Reno Gazette-Journal

ACLU files suit over facial recognition makes its first known false arrest:  Robert Williams, a Black Michigan resident and father of two, has earned the unfortunate distinction of being the first individual known to have been falsely-arrested due to a facial recognition match. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on his behalf last week. You can read more from Williams on the experience that upended a boring day in October 2018 in The Washington Post. (Washington Post

Will Delaware move to release its police records?:  Advocates in Delaware, a state that maintains its police personnel records are confidential, are asking that law enforcement to adopt new policies of transparency, including the adoption of body cameras statewide and the release of information on trainings and uses of force. (The Delaware Gazette)

Records on sleeping police chief released:  The City of Chicago released records, including body camera footage, from the incident and ensuing conversation that led Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to be fired. (Better Government Association)

A look at voting across the states: The Brennan Center has a useful state-by-state breakdown of the election policies in place and where they stand on other measures that could help protect Americans’ right to vote in the November 2020 election.

See something we missed? Let us know.
file.type == "Development"
We’ve loved seeing the creative ways users have used our Assignments crowdsourcing tools, from digging through documents to building petitions.

Now, to help newsrooms quickly gather answers to big questions, we’ve created an experimental spinoff of Assignments designed to help organize volunteers, no matter where it may live, in efforts to gather and label large amounts of data.

MuckRock's Assignments tool makes it easy to split the work of analyzing documents and directing investigations. Each edition of "For the Record" highlights a way to contribute. 

This week, we're still asking for your help collecting nationwide data on police department lawsuit settlements.


Police misconduct is often hidden from public view and settling the lawsuits that result can be a regularly costly business for police departments.  Police departments in the United States spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to pay the victims of these crimes. 

MuckRock has drafted a request to send to police departments, and we've received 486 audience submissions from readers all over the country. You can find requests filed so far here

Your Assignment:
Help us shine a light on misconduct settlements in your town. Submit the name of a city and state. We’ll handle the rest.

Accept the Assignment

Newsletter written by Beryl Lipton and edited by Michael Morisy.

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