Methodology

Oral Request
Each auditor visited the agency on October 16 asking for any information available on a particular burglary or other property crime (this crime was identified in advance through call logs or other routine activity reports). Auditors were told not to introduce themselves as reporters or auditors. All auditors were assigned to agencies that would not immediately recognize them. They were instructed not to state a false identity, but were told not to reveal their full names or employers unless the agency made such disclosures an absolute condition to getting information. In such event, in order to continue the audit to capture other information, they were instructed to provide whatever was clearly demanded, including filling out a form if insisted on. The first few minutes thus tested how a citizen would be treated, when the agencies were not sure whom they were dealing with. If and when the auditor’s anonymity was “blown,” the rest of the inquiry measured how much information the agency was willing to release to anyone, journalist or otherwise — and how soon. Auditors were told not to nudge the agencies to meet legal deadlines for responses — something many reporters would be inclined to do — but to see how aware the agencies were of such time limits without prompting.

Written Request
Each auditor mailed the written request to their assigned agencies on October 15 (the day before the oral request). The agencies were given a name and email address at the bottom of each letter to use for any follow-up questions or clarification. The following is an example of the standardized written request:

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