A Fine Example of Why the Public Needs Access to Dashboard Cam Video…

A state FOI law working just as it should:

Police video recorded the night a young man was fatally shot in a northeast Arkansas patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back hasn’t resolved questions about whether he shot himself in the head as officers said.

Jonesboro police released footage to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a Freedom of Information Act request this week. They released more footage Friday amid questions about why the first batch of video appeared to end before the officers found Chavis Carter, 21, slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car on July 28 as described in a police report. Police have said officers had frisked Carter twice without finding a gun.

Police said the second batch of video occurred after Carter was discovered, but that footage wasn’t immediately available in its entirety.

“There’s still nothing in there about what actually happened with Chavis,” Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis-based lawyer representing Carter’s family, said Friday before the second batch of video had been released.

In Kansas, the Cops Say “Trust Us…”

Not even a high-profile incident like an FBI investigation into police ticket-fixing will prompt Kansas lawmakers to let a little sunlight into police misconduct investigations. No state in the country rivals the secrecy of Kansas when it comes to the police investigating their own…

Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib said the recent FBI investigation into a traffic ticket-fixing scheme and the removal of two high-ranking Lawrence police officers does not necessitate more transparency in police misconduct cases.

“We act appropriately and hold people accountable,” Khatib said.

For the past two years, the Lawrence Journal-World has requested the full reports for misconduct complaints against members of the Lawrence Police Department. The department has denied those requests, citing a personnel exemption in the Kansas open records law. However, police have furnished brief case summaries indicating which complaints were sustained.

Take our word for it, they say, and good taxpayers everywhere groan…

FOI At Work: The List of Institutions Who Can Fly Drones

Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the FAA has released a list of institutions that have asked for Certificates of Authorizations (COA) to fly drones in the United States.

That fact that the U.S. Air Force, DARPA and Department of Homeland Security are flying drones is no surprise. But what about the other institutions on the list?

It includes a number of universities from all over the country, including Cornell University, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State University and Eastern Gateway Community College. It makes sense for universities to have access to U.S. airspace to fly drones — after all, they are the ones doing a lot of the research on new drone technologies, so they might as well be able to test their own creations near campus.

More ominous is the list of local police forces given the green light to fly drones: Arlington, Houston, North Little Rock, Miami-Dade County, Seattle, Polk County, FL and Gadsden, AL.

Read more: http://techland.time.com/2012/04/23/faa-reveals-list-of-colleges-and-police-departments-that-can-fly-drones/#ixzz1svbVViOR

The Intersection of Privacy and Access…

This fascinating and informative post from the wonderful Citizen Media Law Project brings the latest in the ongoing saga of requests for police dashcam videos in Seattle, raising timely issues of law, technology and policing…

A must read.

Arkansas Supreme Court: Police Use-of-Force Records Are Public

Reports from police officers that explain why they use force against someone are not exempt from the state’s public record law, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The opinion from the state’s highest court came months after an attorney, Keith Hall, requested use-of-force reports in the case of an off-duty police officer who allegedly hit his client outside a Little Rock restaurant.

When Hall didn’t get the records he asked for, he filed a petition against Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas, claiming that Thomas violated the Freedom of Information Act.

Thomas argued that the reports are exempt from the public records law as employee-evaluation or job-performance records.

The matter made its way to a circuit court judge, who said the reports are not exempt from the public records law.

Thomas appealed that judge’s decision and the Supreme Court granted his request for a stay in the case.

In Thursday’s opinion written by Associate Justice Robert L. Brown, the Supreme Court sided with the lower court judge and said the use-of-force documents are public record.

Illinois Moves to Legalize WHat Already Ought to Be a No-Brainer: Recording Police at Work

Illinoisans would be allowed to make recordings of police officers in public under a bill that an Illinois House committee approved Wednesday.

Existing state law allows the audiotaping of a person only if both parties to the conversation give their consent. Videotaping doesn’t require consent, but only if there is no audio with the video.

The bill, HB 3944, now goes to the full House. It would allow “recording of a peace officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear.”

Most states allow audio recording of conversations with one-party consent — when any participant in a conversation gives consent to record it. A handful of states require consent from both parties to the conversation. Illinois requires consent from all parties to the conversation.

The Illinois law allows video recording with the sound turned off, as well as the audio recording of a distant event where the voices are not audible.

The Illinois law also has an exemption for news broadcasts. But with the Internet and blogs and YouTube, the line between citizens and journalists is blurring. And footage from citizens’ cellphones often ends up on the websites and broadcasts of large news organizations.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t necessarily oppose a change to let people record police activity, but it wants changes of their own, said the group’s lobbyist, Laimutis Nargelenas.

This Hassle-the-Photographer Crapola Is Getting Old…

Not really FOI, but hey, this is getting downright ridiculous:

A Las Vegas police officer detained a man for refusing to walk away after taking a photo of a movie set that was completely visible to the public.

The man video recorded his interaction, which doesn’t show the officer’s face or name, but allows us to clearly hear him trying to justify giving the photographeran unlawful order.

The photographer whose username is 1willwanders on Youtube, held his ground, asking the officer to cite him the law that would allow him to single out a person for taking photos on a public street, ordering him to walk away while countless other people are allowed to remain because they are not taking photos.

The officer was unable to do so. The photographer was allowed to walk away after more than two minutes of debating with the cop.

Photo of a police officer, Boston, USA

Image via Wikipedia

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