FORKED RIVER – OPRAmachine, a first of its kind statewide freedom of information portal powered by the New Jersey Open Public Records Act officially launched this week, Rozzi Media Group announces.
Our new freedom of information portal is designed to put the power of the New Jersey Open Public Records Act to work for citizens. This week marks the site’s first full week in operation, following a closed beta test held earlier in October. The site has been under development since late 2016.
The concept is simple:
Individuals seeking public records find the government agency they would like to request public records from via the easy to use web interface. They fill out their request and OPRAmachine sends it on its way to the email address on file for that public body’s custodian of records.
The magic happens when our system generates a unique email address for each OPRA request. The unique email address, which is generated on the fly for each request, allows our system to automatically keep track of requests and responses on an individual level.
When records custodians from government agencies provide public records in response to an OPRA request made using our site, the records, along with the full paper trail of correspondence are processed and indexed into our searchable database. This allows the records provided by a government agency to one requester to automatically be available to the entire public, minimizing duplicate requests and saving taxpayer resources, as the process for responding to requests for custodians is the same as any other type of email correspondence.
Even if you are not using OPRAmachine to file new requests, you can benefit from this new transparency & freedom of information initiative. The site also provides the ability to track individual requests and responses. Users can sign up to receive an email whenever a particular municipality or other government agency receives a request via OPRAmachine, as well as search our growing archive of public records.
I recently made use of OPRAmachine to request police use of force reports from most of Ocean County and a few Mounmouth County municipalities. Generally, the results were excellent. Many of the municipalities that we sent requests to complied and provided responsive records before the 7 business day deadline, and just one town (Beach Haven) requested a 3-week extension.
We believe that the powerful capabilities of the site can serve both members of the public and journalists interested in delving into the activities of state and local governments that fall under the OPRA law’s jurisdiction. Additional features, such as private requests and the ability to submit requests anonymously will be announced in the near future.