Late Night Declaration Filed by Ronald Whitaker Opposing Plaintiffs’ Application for Contempt and Sanctions in LACAN/LACW v. City, CCEA

California-centralEarlier today the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the homeless property case, Shayla Myers and Catherine Sweetser, filed a massive application for contempt and sanctions against defendant City of Los Angeles due to their (alleged but totally plausible) recalcitrance in complying with the discovery process. Just now Deputy City Attorney Ronald Whitaker filed a declaration in opposition to this application. There’s nothing that new here, although it’s interesting to see that the City is sticking to its largely discredited claim that

in order to search emails, they need the email addresses of each individual LAPD officer. With the help of our investigator, we have tried to identify each of the individual police officers, of which there are over 400, assigned to the Central Division within the relevant timeframe. The LAPD’s IT department requires us to manually match up each officer name with their serial number, as that is how officers are identified in their email addresses. That process is and has been ongoing.

Peter Zarcone has an LAPD email address based on his name.
Peter Zarcone has an LAPD email address based on his name.

I’ve been told the same story about how they need the email addresses of each individual officer, and it’s just not credible. However, at least it’s consistent. The rest of the story here, that officer names must be matched manually with serial number is absolutely incredible. Even if, for some unimaginably weird reason, there’s no electronically stored list of names matched with serial numbers, surely whatever non-electronically stored lists they’re using in this ongoing process can be scanned through OCR and processed with a script? 400 names just isn’t that many, and the email addresses must be algorithmically generated from the serial numbers, which makes it implausible that the task can’t be automated. This strikes me as yet another example of the City of Los Angeles1 making far-fetched claims about the inadequacy of their computer systems as an excuse to delay or forgo disclosure of records. Furthermore, at least some LAPD officers have email addresses based on their names. See the image for an example (the source is here).

Finally, the fact that LAPD generates email addresses in such a way that extensive manual labor is required just to frame a search across email spools, if this is even true, must have been a conscious decision on someone’s part. It would have been perfectly easy for them to create human-readable email addresses that work in tandem with their current system, and it would be perfectly easy for them to do now. The LAPD has a zillion of these excuses that they pull out in the face of Public Records Act requests as well as discovery requests. The fact that they all seem to make disclosure more difficult is unlikely to be a coincidence. It’s all too convenient, it’s probably in violation of the CPRA, and I sincerely hope that Judge Gutierrez, someone, anyone, makes these people pay penance for their sins.

  1. Not to mention its agents, the Business Improvement Districts, who don’t seem to have the first idea how to use their computers. I’ve had them tell me over and over again that they can’t do this kind of search, or a search would be “overly burdensome” as it would have to be done manually, when it’s obvious to me and to everyone that it can be done automatically in mere minutes. I’ve been able to demonstrate this over and over again. See here for the most recent example.
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