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FOIA provides access to records

By Cpl. Christopher Zahn | | December 12, 2008

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Anyone that has been involved in an accident at their job aboard the Air Station or Laurel Bay, pulled over by the military police or the victim of a theft, domestic dispute, etc., can request the police report by using a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Freedom of Information Act, commonly reffered to as “FOIA,” was passed by Congress in 1966 and placed into effect in 1967. For the first time in U.S. history, the law established the publics’ right to gain access to records possessed by the Federal Government.
However, a person can only request information about themselves, the agency or their underage children. They are not allowed to submit a FOIA to gather information about anyone else, to include their spouse.
A FOIA must be in writing and contain a detailed description of what is being requested. The requester must state that they are willing to pay any processing fees, sign and date the letter and provide a return address and telephone number.
An example letter is available at the public affairs office in Building 596 and online at www.beaufort.
usmc.mil. When the request is completed, it can be faxed, delivered or mailed to the public affairs office.
“Whenever I receive a FOIA request, I inform the person of how long the process will take,” said Dorothy Mack, the FOIA coordinator for the Station. “Then I check to make sure that it is information that can be released.”
Once that part is completed, a public affairs Marine delivers the request to the Provost Marshals Office, or appropriate agency.
“When we receive a FOIA request we look up the persons report in the Consolidated Law Enforcement Offices Center system and place the report number with the request,” said Tamira Menzies, an administrative clerk with PMO. “Once the report is complete, we make a copy of the report and submit it back to the public affairs office.
To ensure that the information is delivered in a timely manner, PMO is given a time limit on gathering the information. They have 20 working days to get the report back to PAO, but they make an attempt to produce the information needed within ten business days, according to Menzies.
“The hardest part about dealing with FOIA requests are the time constraints due to ongoing investigations and people wanting the reports now,” Menzies added.
Once the report is delivered, Mack reads through it to ensure it doesn’t contain any information other than what the requestor is searching for. If the request is for an automobile accident, she can redact the other person’s information from the report. All other requests that contain information that needs to be redacted must go to Camp Lejeune’s FOIA coordinator for determination and direct response to the requestor, according to Mack.
“If the request gets sent to Camp Lejeune then I send the requestor a letter telling them their request was forwarded and provide them with the point-of-contact information,” Mack said.
Once all the unnecessary information has been redacted, the report will be sent to the requestor.
To ensure that people get their information as soon as possible, it is important that they fill out a FOIA request as soon as they can after an incident.
“As soon as someone is involved in an incident here or on Laurel Bay they can come see me to fill out a FOIA request,” Mack said. “Some people are told to wait five to 10 days before filling one out, but they don’t have to wait at all. They can request their report as soon as possible.”
All incidents aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island must go through the FOIA coordinator there, Connie Clansby at 228-2049.
For more information about FOIA requests, contact Dorothy Mack at 228-7201.

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