Monday, October 1, 2007

Police Department not responding to FOIL request

To understand just how dangerous the BQE t-bone is at Congress Street, we need to know the frequency of accidents and fatalities at that site, in comparison with sites that have relatively safe ramps. The NYPD, charged with policing the road, has this information. And I requested it, as the readers of this blog know, in August, in accordance with FOIL, the New York State Freedom of Information Law. The Post Office has confirmed delivery to the NYPD on August 22, 2007.

Under the law, the NYPD is required to respond within five days to FOIL requests. Today it is October 1, and I have had no response, despite my phone calls and other follow-ups.

The police department is organized to enforce the law and, obviously, to obey it. But it seems to have a little trouble doing so, at least in this instance.

I might add that I sent an identical FOIL request to the State's Department of Transportation (DOT), which is in charge of the highway, on September 5. I have not heard from this agency either. Could it be that the FOIL function in these agencies is underfunded ? If they had more personnel assigned to this work, perhaps they could at least refuse the information in a timely manner.

Here are the relevant portions of FOIL

3. (a) Each entity subject to the provisions of this article, within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described, shall make such record available to the person requesting it, deny such request in writing or furnish a written acknowledgment of the receipt of such request and a statement of the approximate date, which shall be reasonable under the circumstances of the request, when such request will be granted or denied, including, where appropriate, a statement that access to the record will be determined in accordance with subdivision five of this section. If an agency determines to grant a request in whole or in part, and if circumstances prevent disclosure to the person requesting the record or records within twenty business days from the date of the acknowledgement of the receipt of the request, the agency shall state, in writing, both the reason for the inability to grant the request within twenty business days and a date certain within a reasonable period, depending on the circumstances, when the request will be granted in whole or in part. Upon payment of, or offer to pay, the fee prescribed therefor, the entity shall provide a copy of such record and certify to the correctness of such copy if so requested, or as the case may be, shall certify that it does not have possession of such record or that such record cannot be found after diligent search. Nothing in this article shall be construed to require any entity to prepare any record not possessed or maintained by such entity except the records specified in subdivision three of section eighty-seven and subdivision three of section eighty-eight.
(b) All entities shall, provided such entity has reasonable means available, accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail and shall respond to such requests by electronic mail, using forms, to the extent practicable, consistent with the form or forms developed by the committee on open government pursuant to subdivision one of this section and provided that the written requests do not seek a response in some other form.

For the complete text of my FOIL request, please click here.

1 comment:

Huajing S said...

Dear Mr. Cohn,

I sent my FOIL request to the following and got response. The catch is, you have to send them an project authorization letter before they send you the accident data you requested. In other words, you must work on a government project in the area where you requested data for. Hope this helps.

John B. Dearstyne
Records Access Officer
New York State Department of Transportation

Best wishes,