The Atlantic ruminates on a recent FOIA request from Chicago’s Vivelohoy that uncovered a racial disparity in jaywalking arrests in Champaign and Urbana, the two towns that contain the University of Illinois. While 16 percent of their population is black, the FOIA request showed that 88 percent of jaywalking arrests in Champaign involved black people between 2007 and 2011, and 91 percent in Urbana during the same time period.
In a blog post lauding Vivelohoy’s investigation, The Atlantic writes:
I once heard it said that every successful Freedom of Information Act request is a failure of open government. In other words, every time activists, journalists, or other citizens are able to get data or other records through a FOIA request, that information should have already been available, somehow, somewhere on the Internet, without the hassle of a request process.
In a more data-open world, police departments would keep these and other sorts of information on their website, as many government agencies are starting to do. But until then, there’s VíveloHoy, which has kindly posted its research in an Excel file, free for all.