Transparency News, 5/11/21


 May 11, 2021
follow us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram
state & local news stories
The FOIA Council's subcommittee on records will meet next week, May 18, at 12 p.m. Click here for subcommittee info and for (eventually) the agenda and related materials. The subcommittee will be looking at two bills in particular: one on access to police disciplinary files and one on FOIA fees.

Hemp growers in Newport News had their home surrounded and were put in handcuffs while police executed a search warrant for marijuana in their home in 2019. News 3 has been investigating this situation for months. Shardell Gerald provided News 3 with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request she made in the days following the raid. She requested body camera video from the officers on scene, information about what led them to believe that she was growing marijuana and how much tax money was spent on the raid at her home. After not getting any information through their FOIA request, the couple filed a civil lawsuit. The attorney, Jimmy Ellenson, said he has worked to get a copies of the body camera video, but again, the city denied it. News 3 also filed two separate requests for the body camera video and were denied the video. Megan Rhyne is the Executive Director of Virginia Coalition of Open Government, a nonprofit that helps the public and media obtain public records. She said, “The response that you got is one that allows law enforcement to withhold a record that they've been asked for, but they are not required to withhold that record; they are making a choice to withhold that record.”
stories from around the country
Family members of a person killed by North Carolina law enforcement would be able to watch unedited officer body camera footage of what happened within about a week, according to a bill approved Monday by a state Senate committee. The language, added to a broader criminal justice reform measure expected to clear the Senate later this week, responds to efforts by the family of Andrew Brown Jr. to view bodycam footage of the Black man’s death in Elizabeth City. Under current law, it’s at the discretion of a sheriff’s office or police department to let an immediate family member of the person who is the subject of the footage or the family’s attorney to watch the video privately. If disappointed with what the law enforcement agency provides, the family can ask a judge to force the agency to let it review more footage. The bill directs a law enforcement agency to let the family view the unredacted recordings within five business days of its request unless the agency asks the court if some footage can be edited or withheld.
The Virginian-Pilot