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MuckRock's newsletter has a new look. For the Record is your essential weekly guide to the latest on freedom of information: accountability battles, transparency threats, and record wins.

Public records laws help our country's residents exercise the awesome power of the people's right to know.  The MuckRock team is here to help you make the most of them and work through the obstacles that inevitably arise. 

This newsletter is an initiative to grow and nurture this communal interest in how to best use the Freedom of Information Act and state public records laws for the public interest. Be sure to scroll through each week for request suggestions, advice, and interesting finds from the files of all types of United States government agencies. 

Your feedback, your challenges, your successes, and your help sharing what we know are all crucial to the collaborative work we do.  Thank you so much for joining us. We look forward to learning with you.

 THE UPDATE 

Records and racism during the time of COVID-19

The United States has seen enough taxpayer-funded employees perpetuate a racist culture and extrajudicial killings. We know when there is a lack of accountability for our government actors, horrible abuses of power occur. Using FOI laws can lend some data and documentation to support addressing these offenses. 

In the immediate, public records can help to provide context and insight into the officers, police departments, and federal agencies roiling communities. Strengthening access to certain records, like those on officer misconduct and discipline, will also facilitate future oversight.

MuckRock users have already begun filing requests to learn more about journalist arrests in Miami, Minnesota's inventory of military equipment, Chicago Police event reports, and Monterey PD's inventory of body cameras. You can follow these requests on their MuckRock pages and suggest others you'd like to see by sending us an email.

On Friday, MuckRock will be holding a free records training session to discuss more ways records requests can be used to advance police accountability. Please sign up below to learn more about requesting public records and existing resources.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is not on pause. States are reopening, relying on social distancing and mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE) use to limit the spread of COVID-19. Standard PPE supplies, though, are limited. It's not clear when the inventory will meet the demand, let alone satisfy the goals for an emergency reserve some places are setting. MuckRock explored the exact amounts of PPE the state of Georgia has in supply, using Georgia Emergency Management Agency's own records.  Emergency agencies in each state and territory also received a version of the same records request we sent to GEMA. You can find each of those here.


If you have a particular subject or transparency concern you'd like an update on, please let us know

 FOIA 101 

FOIA webinar: Police violence and public records
Friday, June 5 at 3:00 p.m. EDT

We’re joining together with partners to host a free training for journalists, organizers, and members of the public who want to better understand how to use open records to bring more transparency to policing.

As protests of the police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans continue, transparency is key to not only better understand how law enforcement in America often fails communities but also to hold these powerful institutions accountable.

We’ll talk through requests our users and team have filed and look at previous large-scale requesting projects made on MuckRock that can help shine a light on key issues.

REGISTER
 BEST OF THE REST 
▶ COVID-19 and the delay of state requests: Most state records laws were still in full effect during COVID-19 emergencies, but  now that the process of reopening has begun, those orders are ending. We've got a list of the state orders affecting Sunshine Laws, including links to the primary sources. If you know of any changes that aren’t listed here, please share them with us(MuckRock)

 ICYMI: MuckRock's Executive Director Michael Morisy recently spoke to The New York Times for their opinion piece, "No, Your FOIA Request Cannot Wait ‘Until This Emergency Is Over’," attesting to what we've seen in our office: agencies all over the country are using COVID-19 as a reason to slow or halt request processing.  (The New York Times)


▶ ICE and Long Island Police: Emails have shown that the relationship between police on Long Island and federal immigration enforcement is much closer than they claimed.  (Documented)

 San Francisco Mayor requested homeless clear-out by text:  A request made by an anonymous user on MuckRock resulted in the release of text messages showing the mayor regularly asking the Chief of Police to clear homeless residents from particular streets. (Mission Local; MuckRock request)

See something we missed? Let us know.
file.type == "Development"
DocumentCloud is an important tool for journalists that need to annotate, share, embed, and analyze their documents, one we're proud to claim as part of the MuckRock team.

For more than a year, developer Dylan Freedman has been working to rebuild the site to better serve its community of journalists, researchers, and curious minds, and now he's releasing new search functionalities to make organizing and finding connections within records even easier. Learn more about DocumentCloud's latest updates via MuckRock's Release Notes.

 
 ON ASSIGNMENT w/ MUCKROCK 

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, your feedback will help direct our requests for police misconduct records and payments.

Issue: 
Many police departments allocate money each year to handle lawsuits brought against them for misconduct and other offenses, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars spent to defend these violations in court each year.

Status
We've drafted a request to send to police departments for settlements they've paid out since 2010. 

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

Accept the Assignment

Newsletter written by Beryl Lipton and edited by Michael Morisy.

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