[ View the story "Sunshine Week highlights importance of free information and open government" on Storify] Sunshine Week highlights importance of free information and open government National initiative spurs dialogue and action for more transparent government.
AJAMStream· Thu, Mar 20 2014 15:50:26
Testing compliance in Connecticut
Three Connecticut newspapers teamed up together for Sunshine Week to
how well police departments complied with the state's Freedom of Information Law.
Reporters from the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen visited all 92 municipal police departments and 11 state police headquarters and asked to see arrest logs.
Departments were given a letter grade based on the ease of access and level of compliance with Connecticut state law. They were penalized for delays, charging access fees or demanding identification from those requesting public information. Departments that refused to give out any information were given an F grade.
Connecticut police compliance checks - a Sunshine Week projecttEcnC19iHrEUPZbKHnOXwg
The majority of police departments scored in the B range, with some barriers to access but generally complying with FOIL. Six departments in Connecticut were given an F grade for outright refusal.
One New Haven police spokesperson told the visiting reporter, "You’ll never get blotter from us, we are just too damn busy.”
South Windsor was the only Connecticut police department that received a perfect A score. The reporter who performed the check was not questioned about his identity and presented with detailed arrest information promptly. The department also posts this information online and has an active social media presence.
Hartford was the largest city to receive a rating above a B. They were reduced from an A to an A-, however, when they asked the reported for identification before providing the logs.
Hartford Deputy Chief Brian Foley said he was “upset" his department didn't get an A. "We want to be completely transparent,” he said.
A world without freedom of information laws
Some news and advocacy organizations are marking Sunshine Week by drawing attention to the reporting that would not have been possible without FOIL.
The Albany Times Union is one local paper that
into its archives to highlight its major stories that were made possible by federal and state freedom of information laws.
• For years, Albany had a secret system to fix parking tickets, including bull's-eye window stickers issued by the city's police union that enabled officers and their friends to avoid fines.timesunion.com
• More than 1,500 State University employees, some making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in salaries, also share another $21 million in largely unseen extra compensation from SUNY's Research Foundation.timesunion.com
The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation this week is publishing a
called "The News Without Transparency," in which they display a prominent news story with the information obtained through public records requests blacked out. The project aims to show how much of the stories that are covered each day are made possible through freedom of information laws.
News Without Transparency - Before O-Care Debacle.Before O-Care debacle, Sebelius made many trips to White House | TheHill February 13, 2014, 06:00 am Before O-Care debacle, Sebelius made many trips to White House Getty Images Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in frequent contact with President Obama and senior White House aides before the disastrous launch of the federal ObamaCare exchange last year.
Celebrating successes, highlighting barriers
Many online are using the hashtag
to highlight recent successful FOIL requests. Prominent FOIL victories this week include a group of University of Maryland journalism students who
how universities monitor the social media accounts of their athletes and The Utah Tribune which
a case against the NSA, forcing the city of Bluffdale to hand over documents about the utilities usage of the NSA's controversial Utah Data Center.
Others are using social media this week to share stories of barriers to accessing government information.
My favorite #SunshineWeek story is when the IL Health Dep't withheld my own stories from my #FOIA request under HIPAA/privacy clause.Kevin P. Craver
#sunshineweek stat: I have 9 #FOIA lawsuits: Reason? Increasing difficulty obtaining docs through usual FOIA process https://t.co/pHEZ8MQZVWJason Leopold
Why no mugshot? An exemption to FL Sunshine Law protects jail guards accused of child porn. #SunshineWeek http://t.co/JNd8j0vfDDMark Harper
This is terrible: the DOJ has proposed a #FOIA rule that would allow them to lie ppl asking for records http://t.co/ldUzSBnl8y #SunshineWeekKendall Taggart
Others shared images of heavily redacted responses to public records requests as well as "
Here's the response to my latest public records request. Gotta love government transparency! http://t.co/9kqd0AsYBYLewis Kamb
This #SunshineWeek, what are your FOIA Shaming stories? http://t.co/f17spMcNQ1 http://t.co/LD4phPv432Student Press Law
Ironic to receive this #FOIA response during #SunshineWeek ... Sigh. #twill http://t.co/GpGxfbDCiACarla K. Johnson