Pennsylvania codified a citizen’s right to access government records in Act 3 of 2008, called the Right to Know (RTK) Law. This law also established the state Office of Open Records. The law governs the release of records, not answering questions. A record is defined as “any information regardless of its physical form or character that documents a transaction or activity of an agency and is created, received, or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of an agency.”
Lower Allen Township provides open access to the public records of the Township in accordance with the Right to Know law. The Township instituted Administrative Policy 2008-05 to establish procedures for complying with the act. Citizen’s need only complete a RTK Request Form to receive a public record. A request may be made in person or by mail, email, or fax.
Please Note: Right To Know Request Appeals regarding open records decisions for Police investigations can be made to the Cumberland County District Attorney or by calling 717-240-6210.
Pay for your Right to Know on-line. Click here – allpaid to get started (3% convenience fee, minimum fee of $3.00 per transaction, from allpaid will be applied.) You will be contacted if your Right to Know request will have any fees owed prior to needed a payment. Please include Right to Know in the information field.
REQUESTING POLICE RECORDINGS
Requesting Police Recordings (Video & Audio) in Pennsylvania
Act 22 of 2017 (specifically, Chapter 67A of the Act) established a new process for requesting audio and video recordings in the possession of law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.
Act 22 applies to individuals seeking “any audio recording or video recording made by a law enforcement agency.” The Right-to-Know Law does not apply to requests for these recordings.
Act 22 defines “law enforcement agency” as:
- The Office of the Attorney General;
- District Attorney’s Office; or
- An agency that employs a law enforcement officer.
A “law enforcement officer” includes “an officer of the United States, the Commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof, another state or political subdivision thereof or who is empowered by law to conduct investigations of or to make arrests for offenses enumerated in this chapter or an equivalent crime in another jurisdiction, a sheriff or deputy sheriff and any attorney authorized by law to prosecute or participate in the prosecution of the offense.”
How to File a Request
Under Act 22, a request for an audio or video recording in the possession of a law enforcement agency must be made within 60 days of the date the recording was made. Requests must be submitted via personal delivery or certified mail (§67A03).
A written request must be submitted to the Agency Open Records Officer (AORO) for the law enforcement agency that possesses the record. The request is not officially received until it is personally delivered to the AORO, or when it is marked as “delivered” by certified mail.
The request must include:
- The date, time and location of the event recorded;
- A statement describing the requester’s relationship to the event recorded; and
- If the recorded incident took place inside a residence, the request must also identify every person present at the time of the recording, unless unknown and not reasonably ascertainable.
Once a request is filed, the agency has 30 days to respond, although the requester and agency can agree to an extension.
Lower Allen Township has developed this request form for police recordings to help ensure that requesters include all of the required information.
What Happens During the Response Period
An agency may review the request itself. However, if the agency has a memorandum of understanding with either a District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office, an attorney from one of those offices may review the request and decide if the recording will be released.
Under Act 22, the agency may deny the request – in writing – if it determines that a recording contains:
- Potential evidence in a criminal matter; or
- Information pertaining to an investigation or a matter in which a criminal charge has been filed; or
- Confidential information or victim information; and
- The reasonable redaction of the recording would not safeguard potential evidence.