Coalition For Open Government Demands Transparency from Restaino on Police Reports

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Dear Mayor:

Obtaining police arrest reports in a timely way is important for the news media to be able to provide information to the public. It is our understanding that for decades police incident reports were forwarded by the Niagara Falls Police Department to the media on a daily basis. We understand further, that for decades police personnel have been available to discuss and provide information beyond reports to the news media.

It has been reported that due to your directive the distribution of daily incident reports by the police department to the media have stopped. Now that the City has hired a Public Information Officer, the new procedure is that a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request must be filed to obtain arrest reports. Furthermore, police personnel are no longer being made available to the media, without first going through the Public Information Officer.

There is nothing in the law that requires the filing of a FOIL request to obtain information. Police departments across New York State routinely provide arrest reports to the news media, as Niagara Falls did for many years.

Your position of restricting the flow of information from the police department to the public is at odds with your campaign platform that called for more transparency in city government, prior to your election as Mayor. The best way to be transparent is to proactively release information to the public without requiring the bureaucracy of a FOIL request.

For decades the system of providing police information to the public has worked. Requiring FOIL requests and preventing police personnel from speaking directly to the public unless cleared through the City’s Public Information Officer is making the City less transparent than it was before your election.

Transparency between the police department and the public is important. The public has an interest and a right to know what police activity is occurring in their community through timely media reports.

The New York Coalition For Open Government requests that you review the impact of the new procedures you have implemented and return to the past practice of providing police incident reports on a daily basis, without the need to file a FOIL request.

At the very least in the interest of transparency, a meeting with police officials and the news media should occur to explain the reasoning behind the new procedures and for you to hear the concerns that the media have.

Sincerely,

Paul W. Wolf, Esq.
President
New York Coalition For Open Government paulwolf2@gmail.com

 


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