Recently, The Daily Eastern News received a response to a Freedom of Information Act request for the case file and dashcam footage of a wreck that occurred on Sept. 19. This came after FOIA denials from the Charleston Police Department, Mattoon Police Department and the Illinois State Police.
After submitting appeals and eventually hearing from the ISP FOIA officer that they were ready and able to turn over the case file to us, we were elated.
The reason The News wanted to view the information was to gather a better understanding of what led up to the wreck itself and to try to find answers for those questioning if the police did the right thing in the chase. With the many guidelines for vehicle pursuits being subjective, we wanted to give people the information they needed to form their own opinion.
Access to information about public bodies and officials is essential to the functioning of our society and when we have the opportunity to do our part as journalists and give that information to the public, we want to do everything we can to ensure that all of the necessary information is readily available.
We at The News believe in the power of strong laws mandating the public’s ability to access information. Without laws allowing citizens to truly be involved in our democracy, our society is left in the dark and unable to make informed decisions and opinions about the governments over us.
Though a case file and footage may be a small bit of what journalists do every day in their work, we are proud to be able to be a part of helping our community be better informed on the public bodies in our area.