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A records request to the City of Norfolk or the Norfolk Police Department can be submitted online via our FOIA tracking portal: https://bit.ly/GovQApublic, by calling one of the phone numbers below, or click here, etc. by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing the request to:
Norfolk City Hall
810 Union Street
Norfolk VA 23510
The online portal is monitored throughout the day, and requests submitted there are received quickly.
After a FOIA request is received, it is reviewed by a member of the FOIA Team and sent to the police department or to the City department that holds the requested records.
You will receive a reply to your request within five business days. This reply may be one of the following five responses, which are outlined in Virginia Code 2.2-3704(B), part of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act:
1. The requested records are being entirely withheld. It is our responsibility to inform you of the volume of records (such as the number of pages) and their general subject matter. We also must cite the specific section of Virginia law that authorizes us, or mandates us, to withhold the records.
2. The requested records are being provided in part and are being withheld in part. It is our responsibility to inform you of the specific section of Virginia law that authorizes us, or mandates us, to withhold the records.
3. The requested records could not be found or do not exist. This response will be necessary in cases where no records are held by the City or the Norfolk Police Department, or when records have been lost or damaged, such as by fire or flood. However, if we learn that the records might be held by another public body, such as the Division of Motor Vehicles or the Virginia State Police, we will include contact information for the other public body in our response.
4. It is not practically possible to provide the requested records or to determine whether they are available within the five-work-day period. If we require more time to complete the processing of your request, the Virginia Freedom of Information Act generally allows us to invoke an extension of seven business days. This is allowed if we invoke this extension within five business days after we have received your request. Our invocation of the extension will include one or more of several reasons allowed by the FOIA, such as a need for the records to be reviewed by a City attorney, or because the custodian of the requested records is out of the office. This response is necessary if, for example, the City staff member who holds the records is on vacation.
5. If your request includes criminal investigative files as outlined in Virginia Code 2.2-3706.1, we will have 60 business days in which to provide a response to you.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act requires that requesters identify the records they are seeking with “reasonable specificity.” If we can’t identify the records you are requesting, we may need to contact you to better understand what you are looking for.
After you submit your request for records, it will be forwarded to the relevant department(s) to locate the records you seek and to determine the volume of those records and any costs associated with satisfying your request. You will be contacted about the availability of and/or provided with copies of the records in question.
Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the City of Norfolk may assess reasonable charges for fulfilling a FOIA request, not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying and searching for the requested records, or developing a cost estimate. For more information on the costs that may be billed to you, please see below.
The City of Norfolk charges for records provided through the FOIA process in accordance with Title 2.2, Chapter 37 of the Code of Virginia. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows us to charge requesters for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. These allowable charges include staff time spent searching for and redacting exempt information from the requested records, copying costs, costs for discs or flash drives, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. These costs cannot include general overhead costs.
For example, if two City staff members work on a records request for one hour, the cost would be calculated based on each person’s hourly rate of pay. If one person earns $25 an hour, and the other person earns $15 an hour, the total cost for producing electronic records would be $40.
If a requester asks for paper copies of documents or asks that the records be provided on a CD or flash drive, charges for those items are: 15 cents for each black-and-white copy; 25 cents for each color copy; $1 for each CD; and $10 for each flash drive, which holds 2GB of data.
If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The total working days that we have to respond to your request does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond. This deposit is based on an estimate only, and the final cost of production may be more or less than the deposit. If the final cost is less than the deposit, the balance will be returned to you. However, if the final cost is more than the deposit, the balance will be charged to you.
You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs up front or give you the opportunity to modify your request to try to lower the estimated costs.
If you would like a cost estimate, please let us know promptly (before we provide a response to your request) by emailing us at: email@example.com. If we do not hear from you promptly, we will continue to process your request, and you may be responsible for the charges incurred.
If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the City may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act requires us to post this statement:
“A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requester in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.”
Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), citizens of Virginia and representatives of the media in Virginia have the right to access public records, either by inspecting the public records or receiving copies of them. FOIA also requires that public bodies make their meetings open to the public to watch. There are situations in which a public record or a meeting is not open to public access: the public record or the meeting is “exempt.” For some common exemptions, click here.
The City of Norfolk FOIA Team is ready to help you request records and to answer any questions about your request:
Who handles my FOIA requests? What records do you have?
The City of Norfolk FOIA Team handles requests for records held by the Norfolk Police Department, the Norfolk Fire Marshal, and by the City. When submitting a FOIA request, citizens are asked to indicate whether their request is for records related to Public Safety (for police or fire records) or whether their request is for a general Public Record (records related to general City administration, such as Planning, Neighborhood Quality or other departments). Requests for each type will be sent to the correct department and processed in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
Certain police records, or portions of police records, are exempt from disclosure under Virginia Code 2.2-3706, which maintains that information contained in criminal investigative files and information on the identities of witnesses and victims, including 911 callers, are exempt from mandatory release under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. See the Code of Virginia § 2.2-3706 Disclosure of law-enforcement and criminal records and limitations for details.
The FOIA law includes provisions that exempt other types of records, such as some city personnel information, any financial account information, personal information such as Social Security numbers, confidential tax information, confidential human services information, and legal advice given to the City under certain circumstances. You can find commonly cited FOIA exemptions from the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council:
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act requires that the following information related to employees of the City of Norfolk and Norfolk Police Department be released when requested: a person’s name, position, job classification, official salary, or (for hourly employees) rate of pay of, and information on any allowances or reimbursements paid to them. This applies to requests for information on individual employees and to requests for lists of multiple employees. To protect the privacy of City and NPD employees, no other personnel-related information is generally disclosed, including records of administrative investigations into allegations of wrong-doing by law-enforcement.
To protect the privacy of victims and witnesses, the Norfolk Police Department does not routinely release any identifying information on them, including their names, addresses or license plate numbers.
If a law enforcement record concerns a juvenile, the record is routinely withheld under Virginia Code 16.1-301, which says that such records are “protected against disclosure to any unauthorized person.” In most cases, these records “shall not be open to public inspection nor their contents disclosed to the public.”
To protect the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations, the Norfolk Police Department does not routinely release information included in criminal investigative files. After a criminal case is adjudicated or otherwise closed, other exemptions to information in the case file may apply.
To protect the privacy and safety of people receiving services, the City of Norfolk does not routinely release information about people receiving social services.
To protect the attorney-client privilege and attorney work product, the City of Norfolk routinely withholds from release legal advice and work of its attorneys.
To protect the financial interest of the City, the City of Norfolk routinely withholds information relating to the negotiation and award of a specific contract where competition or bargaining is involved before the award of the contract. After the award, proprietary information and trade secret information is routinely withheld.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act does not require a governmental body to create records, to do legal research, or to answer questions about the records we might provide.