The Transparency Project

With a wave of requests for police reforms and transparency sweeping the country, I want to mention The Transparency Project (TTP). Our mission is to assist the survivors of victims of murder and suspicious death in finding resolution for themselves and justice for their lost loved ones. In many cases the survivors are victimized twice. First by the loss of someone dear to them, and again by the very system they rely on for justice when they try to obtain police records containing the details of how their investigation was conducted.

While there are legitimate reasons under the “open case exemption” to FOIA requests for police not to release information that could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, that same exemption is sometimes used to conceal investigations that were poorly conducted and could reflect badly on the investigators or the agency involved. Because the agency receiving the FOIA request has the final say as to what will or will not be released, it puts the fox in control of guarding the hen house. Cases that have been inactive for years or decades remain “open” and requests for information are denied. Except for one state that I’m aware of, there is no process in place to appeal the denial to a neutral party.

That one exception is Illinois. They addressed this issue in 2016 with the passage of House Bills 4715 and 6083, which became known as Molly’s Law. The legislation places the burden on the police agency to not only prove the case is open, but that it is being actively investigated. It also allows the requesting party to appeal to the state attorney general if their request is denied. Although more needs to be done, Molly’s Law was a major step in the right direction.

I hope our legislators will remember these survivors as they debate police reforms. They are the forgotten victims who so desperately need help in leveling the playing field in their quest for justice.

Last year TTP released a book titled Survivors that tells the stories of several survivors in their own words. You might find it to be an interesting and informative read.thumbnail_Sell Sheet GRIFFIN

 

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