Transparency News, 4/16/21


 April 16, 2021
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state & local news stories
Yesterday, the lobbyists for the Virginia Press Association and I talked with the Virginia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists about FOIA and access-related bills during the 2021 General Assembly.
You can view the discussion on SPJ's YouTube page.

The Town of Windsor on Thursday briefly posted police body cam video of a prior traffic stop involving an Army lieutenant about a month before a controversial one involving the same lieutenant that recently thrust the town into the national spotlight.
The 16-minute video was posted on the town’s website, but quickly was taken down because town officials realized the video contained personal information about the motorist, 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, that needed to be redacted, Town Manager William Saunders said. Windsor officials said earlier this week they planned to post all body cam videos involving Nazario on the town’s website, including the one from November. They said they were doing so in an effort to be transparent after news about a federal lawsuit Nazario filed against two of the town’s officers made national news. But Nazario’s attorney, Jonathan Arthur, believes the move was made to retaliate against the Army officer and traumatize him again by “publishing whatever derogatory information they can find.”
Daily Press

Police body-worn camera video obtained by CBS 6 showed fired Windsor Police officer Joe Gutierrez using a Taser on a man during a 2016 traffic stop in another jurisdiction. In an effort to learn more about Gutierrez, CBS 6 sent Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to several jurisdictions in Isle of Wight County. Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings confirmed that Gutierrez worked with the Smithfield Police Department from August 2016 to July 2017. Through the FOIA request, Stallings provided CBS 6 with Gutierrez’s body-worn camera video from his involvement in another traffic stop on December 19, 2016. The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office denied CBS 6’s FOIA request for any excessive force reports or complaints against Gutierrez citing an exemption for personnel records.
stories from around the country
A new policy that legal experts say could impede the public’s right to access government records is now in effect for Beaufort County, South Carolina. The policy seeks to “balance Beaufort County’s commitment to transparency and openness” while protecting confidential information, it states. But legal experts say the policy, which allows the county to redact disciplinary issues and resumes, withhold video and audio recordings and requires some citizens to sign an indemnity agreement before records are released, is problematic and places unnecessary barriers between citizens and their elected officials.
The Island Packet

After months of delays, aldermen appear poised to vote on an ordinance that would require the city to create a public database of closed Chicago Police Department misconduct files dating as far back as 1994. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who chairs the City Council Finance Committee, introduced the proposal last September to require the Inspector General’s office to create “a user friendly, publicly accessible and searchable digital repository” of CPD’s closed misconduct complaints. The CPD misconduct database ordinance has gone nowhere for months, but is now scheduled for a hearing by the Finance and Public Safety committees on Friday, after undergoing a major re-write.
CBS Chicago