(Updated at 7:05 p.m. on 12/8/2021) The Fairfax County Police Department is about to bring its public records request system a little closer to the 21st century.
Starting early next year, the many people who request Fairfax County police records every year through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will be able to pay the attached fees online, the county’s FOIA office confirmed to FFXnow.
Currently, the FCPD and nearly all other county departments and agencies require a physical check sent by snail mail for FOIA fees, which cover the costs of labor, copying, and other expenses incurred in the process of obtaining and delivering requested records.
With the new system, records requesters will fill out an online form with their contact information and details about their FOIA request before submitting an electronic check through a secure checkout screen.
“This new process is still being finalized, but we are confident that certain high-volume FOIA agencies (like the FCPD) will be able to collect FOIA fees electronically in early 2022,” Amanda Kastl, the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs’ countywide FOIA officer, said by email.
The county introduced the online fee portal in August 2020 for the countywide FOIA office, which handles complex requests and ones that involve multiple departments. The office also oversees the overall FOIA process, including standardizing fee collection and processing.
Kastl says her office partnered with the Fairfax County Department of Finance to develop, test, and implement the new system after seeing an increased desire for the ability to pay fees electronically from those requesting records.
The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role, since FOIA staffers were working remotely, which made it harder to process checks.
According to Kastl, the online portal was intended to make the FOIA process simpler and more efficient for both the community and staff, and so far, it has paid off.
“We have received positive feedback from requesters on the convenience and efficiency of submitting payments electronically,” she said.
While online payments are now accepted for everything from grocery shopping to federal taxes, Fairfax County appears to among the vanguard in Northern Virginia when it comes letting people pay FOIA fees electronically. Read More