Public Information requests for police body camera footage and complaints and other personnel related documents have been denied by government agencies while requests for emails, data sets and agency policies have generally been granted.
Through the California Public Records Act, NBC 7 Investigates has submitted more than 130 requests in the past year and a half to local government agencies. The CPRA allows the public to ask for access to information maintained, collected or created by government agencies and employees. It covers information like employee emails, agency policies, investigations, photographs or videos owned or captured by the agency, etc.
NBC 7 Investigates tracks the requests it makes to government agencies to keep tabs on what was requested, who the request was sent to and when the agency should be responding. Under the CPRA, an agency has 10 days from when the request was received to respond.
An analysis of the requests shows some information is readily available when requested, while other information is harder to obtain or denied due to a variety of exemptions.
Some patterns of non-disclosure NBC 7 Investigates noticed in the requests include:
- Requests for law enforcement dash cam video from police agencies have been denied due to on-going investigations. One request for dash cam video went unanswered.
- Multiple requests for police body camera video have been denied.
- Requests for employment records for law enforcement and teachers have been denied. These requests have included documents like complaints filed against specific individuals, past employment history and more.
- When asking for documents related to internal investigations involving law enforcement, teachers and other government employees, the requests have generally been denied.
- NBC 7 Investigates has had trouble obtaining information from jails and the juvenile court system. Most requests have been denied due to privacy or investigatory reasons.
- Generally requests for video or photos associated with internal or external investigations at government agencies have been denied.
- The California Department of Motor Vehicles no longer releases license photos of individuals after the individual has died. Since the policy was put into place, requests for photos have been denied.
With requests denied due to ongoing investigations, NBC 7 Investigates continues to follow-up on the requests. Even after investigations have been completed the information is sometimes withheld.
The CPRA log shows some patterns of disclosure with local and state agencies, including:
- Requests for emails from government employees have generally been granted.
- Requests for information about who is working at certain government agencies has been provided and has been provided electronically.
- When data has been requested and exists, local and state agencies have been generally responsive and provided the data. It has also been provided electronically.
- Law enforcement agencies are generally responsive to CPRA requests for information about when and how often they respond to crimes. Requests for “calls for service” logs, details about when they responded to an incident have been provided.
- Information about what cases and when a case is being heard in court is generally readily available. This information is often made available without submitting a CPRA, which allows for faster processing in most cases.
Overall, the NBC 7 Investigates log shows government agencies are generally responsive to allowing and making the information requested available to view. This includes allowing time to sit and look over each document, scan certain documents and providing someone to talk through the information.
This is one of a series of posts from NBC 7 Investigates highlighting the public’s right of access to information. The stories were published to coordinate with Sunshine Week, an annual campaign bringing attention to federal and local access issues. In California, the public is able to request information from government agencies, offices and officials through the California Public Records Act. For more information on how to request information click here.