On Saturday, Jan. 12th, we co-coordinated a workshop at the 2nd annual Data 4 Black Lives conference, entitled FOIA/Public Records and Law Enforcement Accountability.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and equivalent state public record laws are a cornerstone of American democracy – and yet the process of making the law work requires real thought and effort, inside and outside government. Together with the ACLU of Massachusetts, we’ll learn from experts, journalists, and activists about strategies and techniques for getting public records from government that can be used for accountability. Our presenters will showcase examples of public records being used to expose and combat surveillance, targeted and biased policing, and police use of force.
In addition to Houston Institute staff, the workshop presenters were:
- Nasser Eledroos of the Massachusetts ACLU
- Freddy Martinez of Lucy Parsons Labs
- Steve Stirling & Disha Raychaudhuri of New Jersey Advance Media, on The Force Report
- Maira Khwaja & Chaclyn Hunt of Invisible Institute, on the Citizens Police Data Project
- Michael Morisy of MuckRock
After presentations on these initiatives, the workshop featured Q&A overviews of the nuts and bolts of public records requests and best practices for building digital and/or public platforms for law enforcement data.
Invisible Institute | The Citizens Police Data Project (CPDP)
- CPDP takes records of police interactions with the public that would otherwise be buried in internal databases and opens them up to make the data useful to the public, creating a permanent record for every police officer and a public record for every civilian complaint.
- Invisible Institute analysis of stark racial disparities in Chicago Police use of force
- Invisible Institute reporting on how police misconduct spreads in clusters, like a disease
- For a catalog of past records requests made by Invisible Institute, as well as collected resources on how to make your own FOIA requests, visit: https://invisible.institute/foia
Lucy Parsons Labs | Intro to FOIA Requests
- A small presentation that LPL put together for how to do public records requests:
The Force Report | Coverage, Searchable Database, and Data Visualizations
- The Force Report searchable database: http://force.nj.com
- And how they built the database.
- In-depth coverage of racial disparities
- Data Visualization: https://projects.nj.com/data/force-visual
- Full coverage (all stories): https://projects.nj.com/investigations/force-collection/index.html
- Law enforcement agencies among Massachusetts Public Records Law’s biggest offenders
- Access to police records is an issue all across the country
- In collaboration with Campaign Zero, MuckRock requested use of force policies from the largest police departments in the country.
- Read the Campaign Zero report on use of force policies in 91 of the 100 largest U.S. cities
- The State of State Public Records Laws | Browse by Jurisdiction | Response Times & Exemptions by Place
- Social Media Monitoring in Boston: Free Speech in the Crosshairs
- Oops — Did Police Accidentally Reveal Unconstitutional Surveillance When They Tweeted a Screenshot?
- June 2015 | NAACP LDF & the DOJ OCR gave a joint webinar called A Community Strategy for Changing Police Practices about filing Title VI civil rights complaints (administrative complaints, traditionally based on individual incidents, alleging violations of federal civil rights law by state or local law enforcement).
- Though no longer online through the LDF website, we have uploaded some related materials:
- Sample Title VI Complaint: NAACP LDF – A Community Strategy for Police Reform Sample Complaint
- Webinar Q&A: NAACP LDF – A Community Strategy for Police Reform Webinar QnA
We split the consolidated slide deck from all of our presenters into two parts and compressed all images so the file viewer could accommodate the large file size. To download the entire conference presentation at original resolution, click here (29.3 MB).
Please note: a number of slides have active links – click through to check out the original content!
- Collected research on police use of deadly force / police shootings from Campaign Zero:
- Databases on police use of deadly force & police violence:
- Radley Balko in the Washington Post on the overwhelming evidence that the criminal punishment system is racist, including a section collecting studies & reports on policing and profiling