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Assume someone wants to rent a townhouse but doesn't have good enough credit. So this person asks a co-signer to co-sign for the townhouse. The co-signer lives across the country so travel to the townhouse for them is costly. The rental is approved and the person moves in.

Some time goes by and the co-signer learns that the police have been called to the townhouse for numerous occasions.

The co-signer wants to find out what were the reasons. Co-signer feels that the renter isn't being completely up front about things.

Co-signer wants to write the city and issue a FOIA request that requests copies of the police reports for that address, giving a copy of the lease to prove Co-signer is on the lease and should be allowed to see them.

Is this a proper use of a FOIA request or would another method be more appropriate for asking? Should the request be mailed, emailed or faxed?

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Ordinarily, you can get police reports from the relevant police department without making a formal FOIA request.

The Co-Signer should contact the local police department and determine what information and process the need to provide the relevant police reports. The exact process varies considerably from department to department, because policing is mostly a local government function, so there is usually not a uniform state or federal process for obtaining them. There is likely to be a modest copying and research fee.

The hard part will be adequately identifying the reports wanted, so that they can be located and produced by the records department of the relevant police department.

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The state has a helpful page on making requests; fax, email, US mail and in person are all accepted. This page also gives a sample letter tunes for Pennsylvania. Whether or not the police will (are required / prohibited to) provide the requested information will be determined by the Agency Open Records Officer, given the circumstances. It is never improper to ask. It may well not be necessary, so you can start by just informally asking the police.

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Is this a proper use of a FOIA request or would another method be more appropriate for asking?

Yes. It is through FOIA requests how I have obtained several police reports regarding the defendant to one of the lawsuits I filed in the corrupt courts of Michigan. Two such reports are this and this. In Pennsylvania, the relevant statute is called Right-to-Know Law. The procedure is described in § 67.701 et seq.

Although § 703 states that:

[a] written request need not include any explanation of the requester's reason for requesting or intended use of the records

, I suggest you to do articulate an explanation, as that would support your request in case the officer is unsure on whether to grant or deny it. Keep in mind that the officer has to ponder between (a) your rationale/need for the records, and (b) the renter's privacy.

Should the request be mailed, emailed or faxed?

The same statute reads:

A written request for access to records may be submitted in person, by mail, by e-mail, by facsimile or, to the extent provided by agency rules, by any other electronic means

Beware that police reports that have not been closed will not be included in the production of records.

Additionally, you can search in the website of the county court whether any charges have been pressed against the renter.

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