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National Freedom of Information Summit Hits Denver This Weekend

A national conference focusing on how citizens can keep an eye on their government will take place in Denver this weekend. Credit: Akabei/iStockphoto
A national conference focusing on how citizens can keep an eye on their government will take place in Denver this weekend. Credit: Akabei/iStockphoto
October 8, 2015

DENVER - The 2015 National Freedom of Information Summit is coming to Denver this weekend. The event is designed to open up the public's access to information on issues ranging from police body cameras to government emails and emerging online streams of government data.

Jeff Roberts, executive director with Colorado's Freedom of Information Coalition, says the concept of open government goes back to the nation's founding fathers.

"Access to information is a foundation of the way our democracy is supposed to work," says Roberts. "In order for democracy to function, people need to know about what's going on with their government."

Roberts says Saturday's schedule in particular will focus on how journalists and ordinary citizens can tap open records and open meetings laws to get real-time government data and records from school boards, city governments, courts and federal agencies.

Roberts says Saturday's "Policing the Police" session is drawing increased interest in the wake of several high-profile videos documenting the use of deadly force.

The panel, which features a Colorado chief of police and an American Civil Liberties Union policy director, will focus on the public's right to record police activities and how states tell officers when to turn body cameras on or off.

"They make a decision of when something should be recorded or not," says Roberts. "The right to record police, you know, with your cell phone, for instance - you do have a First Amendment right to do that."

Roberts points to bipartisan legislation passed in Colorado reinforcing the right to film police after incidents where officers told onlookers to stop recording, improperly seized cameras or erased videos.

The conference also includes a keynote presentation from Karen Kaiser, a vice president with the Associated Press, and the induction of journalist Pete Weitzel into the Open Government Hall of Fame.

Roberts adds the group also will honor Joyce Meskis, the owner of Denver's Tattered Cover bookstores, for her lifelong work on First Amendment causes.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO