The City of Providence (“City”) is committed to transparency and open government. Pursuant to the Access to Public Records Act (“APRA”), R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-1, et. seq., and to facilitate expeditious access to records maintained by the City, requests for public records under the APRA may be submitted in any of the following methods:
- Online via the Open Records Portal – The City’s Open Records Portal is a modern platform and the most efficient method for requesting, tracking, and accessing public records and documents. Users can search, review previous requests, and access released records. Please be advised, that requests may be edited, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-1, et seq., to remove sensitive or confidential information, such as social security numbers or dates of birth.
- Mail or Hand Delivery – You can mail your request to the address below, or conveniently use the drop-box located at 444 Westminster Street, near the Greene Street entrance.
Public Records Unit
c/o City of Providence Law Department
444 Westminster Street, Suite 220
Providence, RI 02903
Requests submitted via mail or hand delivery will be added to the Open Records Portal by a member of the City’s Public Records Unit and considered “received” during normal business hours, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e).
- Anonymous Requests – You are not required to provide identifying information or state your reason for requesting records. Your right to access public records is not contingent on providing identification or reasons. All anonymous requests and responses will be posted on our Open Records Portal. Please note records will not be kept indefinitely for pickup. If you provide contact details, the City may schedule a reasonable time for inspection or copying, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(a).
- Requests for Motor Vehicle Crash/Accident Reports – Please be advised that you can obtain motor vehicle crash/accident reports by following the established procedures of the Providence Police Department, which are outlined here.
Requests for crash/accident reports submitted following the City’s APRA procedures will be subject to a balancing test. This test weighs the public interest in disclosure against any privacy concerns, and as a result, records may be withheld. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(4)(A)(I)(b); see also, Providence Journal Company v. Kane, 577 A.2d 661 (R.I. 1990).
The City reserves the right to charge fees associated with responding to your request in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-4. The cost per copied page is $0.15. The cost for time spent searching, retrieving, and/or redacting documents shall not exceed $15.00 per hour. There is no charge for the first hour of search and/or retrieval. The City will provide an estimate of charges prior to fulfilling your APRA request in order to allow you the opportunity to retract or amend your request. If the City assesses any prepayment estimate, the time by which the City has to respond to your request shall be tolled pending receipt of payment and/or further clarification pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-7(b).
Please be advised that for purposes of search and retrieval costs, multiple requests made by you, or your entity, within thirty (30) days to the City shall be considered one (1) request pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-4(b).
The Access to Public Records Act allows a public body ten (10) business days to respond, unless otherwise extended for good cause pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e).
Denial of Records
Any denial of the right to inspect or copy records, in whole or in part, will be made to you in writing, and will include the reason(s) for the denial and the procedures for appealing the denial. Any withholding or redaction of records constitutes a denial, as does a response that the City does not maintain any records responsive to your request.
In the event your request is denied in full or in part, you may petition the Chief Administrative Officer of the department that maintains the records for a review of the determination of the Public Records Unit. The Chief Administrative Officer shall make a final determination whether or not to allow public inspection within ten (10) business days of your petition.
Please be advised that if your request pertains to the performance or alleges misconduct by the Chief Administrative Officer of the department from which you are seeking records, the Chief Administrative Officer will assign the appeal response to their immediate supervisor to prevent any perception of impropriety.
Other Options for Appeals
You may also wish to file a complaint with the Department of the Attorney General or the Rhode Island Superior Court.
Requests Submitted Outside of the City’s Established Procedures
The above-described procedure is the means by which any member of the public must submit a request for records from any City Department explicitly including the Providence Police Department, the Providence Fire Department, and the Providence School Department. Requests submitted outside of the above procedures, via fax or email will not be accepted as an APRA request.