Podcast: Law Enforcement Records

Podcast Logo CroppedThe fifth episode of the Open Records in Pennsylvania podcast is now available.

This episode looks at how law enforcement records, including police video and audio recordings, are handled under the Right-to-Know Law.



To subscribe on other podcast apps, search for “Open Records in Pennsylvania” to find our feed.


Episode 5 of the Open Records in Pennsylvania podcast

If you have ideas for future episodes of the podcast, I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below, tweet to @ErikOpenRecords or @OpenRecordsPA, or contact the OOR.

Social Media and Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law

Open records_logo stackedAs agencies across Pennsylvania use social media more often to communicate with residents, Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) requests for records related to social media are becoming more common.

Determining whether information related to social media — including social media posts, direct messages sent via social media, and other types of information — qualifies as a “record” or a “public record” under the RTKL is no different than determining whether an email, a memo, or a map is a “record” or a “public record.”

First, agencies should determine whether a request is seeking a record, defined as “information … that documents a transaction or activity of an agency…”

If the request is seeking a record, agencies should determine whether it is a public record, defined as “A record, including a financial record, … that (1) is not exempt under Section 708, (2) is not exempt … under any other Federal or State law or regulation or judicial order or decree; or (3) is not protected by a privilege.”

Examining some decisions from the Office of Open Records (OOR) and the Commonwealth Court may be useful. Here’s a look at several of the most significant decisions involving social media.

Boyer v. Wyoming Borough (OOR Dkt. No.: AP 2018-1110)

The request sought records related to the mayor’s Facebook page, including a list of page administrators and editors and all comments made and removed or blocked from the page.

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Draft Update to Standard RTK Request Form

The Office of Open Records (OOR) is required by Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) to “develop a uniform [request] form which shall be accepted by all Commonwealth and local agencies” (Section 505(a) of the RTKL).

We’ve developed a draft update to the Standard RTK Request Form and we want to know what you think. The goal is simple: Improve the form by making it more useful and easier to understand for both agencies and requesters.

Please take a look at the draft update, compare it to the existing form, and share any comments or suggestions by Sept. 30, 2018.

Note: When the update is finalized, the PDF version of the form will be a fillable PDF, just as the current form is. The draft version does not include that feature.

Draft Update to the Standard RTK Request Form – draft as of Sept. 13, 2018

Current Standard RTK Request Form – as of Sept. 13, 2018

Contact the OOR to share your thoughts

Oct. 11 in Harrisburg: RTKL Training for Requesters

The Office of Open Records is hosting a training session on Thursday, Oct. 11, at our office in Harrisburg which will focus on Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) issues of importance to requesters.

Topics to be covered include how to write a good RTKL request, accessing information in databases, significant deadlines in the RTKL, how to appeal a RTKL denial, and more. There will also be time for questions and answers.

Sign up here to join us on Oct. 11.

NOTE: This training will be most useful for interested residents and members of the media. It will be of limited value to agency employees and agency attorneys.

If you’re interested in this kind of training but can’t join us for this event, the presentation used in the training will be posted to this blog, we’ll be providing additional requester training sessions (including webinars) in the future, and we’ll be creating more YouTube videos focused on requester issues.

Visit the OOR website for more information about upcoming OOR training sessions and to subscribe to the OOR’s email newsletter.

Two RTKL Presentations at Temple University

Yesterday, I returned to my alma mater Temple University to speak to two journalism classes about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

It was great to be back on campus (so much construction!). Both classes, one with undergraduate students and one with master’s students, had outstanding questions, and I greatly appreciate the invitations.

(If you’re a journalism professor in Pennsylvania, let me know if you’d like me to speak to your class and I’ll do my best to make it happen.)

Here are the Powerpoint presentations I used:

Temple University – Prof. Jillian Bauer-Reese – Sept. 4, 2018 (PPTX)
Temple University – Prof. Jillian Bauer-Reese – Sept. 4, 2018 (PDF)
Temple University – Dr. Logan Molyneux – Sept. 4, 2018 (PPTX)
Temple University – Dr. Logan Molyneux – Sept. 4, 2018 (PDF)

Twitter Thread: RTKL Deadlines

Here’s a Twitter thread I posted recently exploring deadlines under the Right-to-Know Law.

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