Shawn over at MuckRock has gotten me hooked on researching ALPR usage in South Carolina. As the process has unfolded I’ve needed to submit FOIA requests to dozens of agencies, most of them small cities or county governments.
Unfortunately, South Carolina is still mostly in the stone ages when it comes to transparency (ok, maybe the dark ages). Most state agencies don’t even mention the FOIA on their website, so you can forget about it being easy when you get down to the local level.
Finding who to send your request to can mean an hour digging around the back alleys of their horrid 1990’s era website1 only to give up and have to call them anyway. Hopefully the person who answers the phone actually knows what the FOIA is and can direct you to the right person. If you’re lucky they’ll even be able to give you their email address. If you’re not so lucky they’ll just dump you into their voicemail and you might end up playing phone tag for a week.
Since I’ve been tracking down these backwoods contacts anyway, I thought I might help someone else out if I can. If you use MuckRock to file your requests you’re golden — they’ve already got them in their database. If not, I’ve posted the spreadsheet I use to keep track of them on Google Docs.
- Tip: Search for “foia”, “freedom of information act”, “public information officer”, and “pio”. ↩