It Took Me Two Months To Get Even A Minimal Amount Of The Story Behind A May 7 Copaganda Tweet From LAPD Central Division Supreme Commander Timothy Scott Harrelson — With A Public Records Act Request That I Filed Pretending To Be A Reporter At Blue Line News — Which I Made Up And Bought A Domain For To Use For Email — And — Even Though Obvious — The Ploy Worked Briefly In That Commander Harrelson Apparently Told LAPD Discovery Staff That He Was Going To Call Me — Me Being The Made Up Reporter Rose Olsen From Blue Line News — But Then He Didn’t Call — And LAPD Apparently Caught On To The Ruse — But I Did At Least Learn The Names Of The Arrested People — And The Location Of The Arrests — All Of Which Turns Out To Be Less Interesting Than The Process — Which Is Just How It Goes Sometimes

About two months ago, on May 7, 2020, the incomparable Lexis-Olivier Ray alerted me to the fact that, from his putatively safe haven in Simi Valley,1 Los Angeles Police Department Commander Timothy Scott Harrelson had just tweeted triumphantly about an LAPD raid on a “luxury apartment” Downtown due to “illegal cannabis sales.”2 But maybe you heard that cannabis is now legal in California? So this is essentially an arrest for tax evasion. Which is not something that ought to be at the top of any law enforcement priority list in the middle of a pandemic, right?3

So I thought I’d look into the circumstances, and how better to do that than using the California Public Records Act?! There’s a problem, though, and that is the sad but true fact that the Los Angeles Police Department has completely stopped responding to my requests.4 When they first stopped I invented a few pseudonyms to make requests under, and this worked for a while.5 But then I started to file lawsuits over some of my pseudonymous requests so they caught on. Soon, I believe, they started tracking my pseudonyms as they identified them6 and then refusing to respond to those requests.

They are pretty prompt when the LA Times makes a request, though, which is part of the reason I think they’re singling out my requests for inaction.7 But this matter seemed important. Not only important enough for a new pseudonym, but for an actual backstory! And given LAPD’s responsiveness to the Times I thought of being a reporter.8 And from a sympathetic-sounding news outlet. And for a more convincing, at least superficially so, email address than the usual randomname3442@gmail.com. So I bought bluelinenews.org, fired up the random name generator and, using its suggestion, Rose Olsen, on May 9, 2020 I filed a CPRA request9 at lacity.nextrequest.com:


Dear Los Angeles PD. My name is Rose Olsen and I’m a reporter currently working for Blue Line News, a recently founded news agency seeking to present positive news about police officers in the United States and Canada. I am working on a story highlighting actions of first responders during COVID as they struggle to continue their ordinary work that’s not related to the pandemic. The MSM has made hay from statistics suggesting crime has gone down due to stay at home orders but it is likely that the statistics are wrong because officers have more important matters to attend to so ordinary criminal arrests are less common. I came across a tweet by your Captain Harrelson announcing the arrest of large scale marijuana dealers recently and I would like to include this fine piece of work in the story I’m writing. Can you therefore provide me with all publicly available information about this occurrence? You can send it to me by email at rolsen@bluelinenews.org if that is convenient.

Thank you,

Rose Olsen

Correspondent

Blue Line News

California Bureau

And you know, a few days later it turned out that members of the press really do get special treatment from the LAPD CPRA unit. On May 11, just two days after my request was filed, I got LAPD’s routine COVID-19 disclaimer but, and this is essential, rather than being from a randomly assigned analyst the message was filed by “LAPD Michelle N6335, Senior Administrative Clerk,” who’s of a higher rank than the usual responder.10 And one week after that, on May 19, 2020, I got the exceedingly unusual message from “LAPD Analyst Tuan N6658, Management Assistant”:

Dear Requester:

I am aware that Captain Harrelson has contacted you regarding this request. Were all your questions answered? If so, I will go ahead and close this request.

If you have any questions, please respond to this email.

Respectfully,

LAPD Discovery Section, CPRA Unit

Which is interesting. I have more than one, in fact more than five, CPRA requests from 2018 still pending with LAPD. Every two weeks, like I said, they send me another copy/paste message extending their due date and yet they never produce a thing. I have dozens pending from 2019 they refuse to process. And yet as soon as I pretend to be an unknown reporter from a made-up news outlet with the magic words “blue line” in its name I have a freaking commander telling his staff that he’ll call me.11 I told them so, and told them that I couldn’t talk on the phone anyway, and at some point apparently they figured out that it was me12 and stopped cooperating.13

And one form LAPD’s non-cooperation with CPRA requests that have anything at all to do with arrests, as this one does, is a very literal reading of Section 6254(f). This section basically allows law enforcement agencies to withhold so-called investigative records. Courts have defined this category really narrowly, but to LEAs, or at least to LAPD, it encompasses basically anything they don’t want to release that they can’t invent another reason for not handing over.14 But it explicitly requires the release of certain information with respect to arrests, and LAPD will always provide a proper subset of that required information along with some idiotic semi-excuses for why they’re not providing all of it. Here’s what the section says:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subdivision, state and local law enforcement agencies shall make public the following information, except to the extent that disclosure of a particular item of information would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation or would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation:

(1) The full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency, the individual’s physical description including date of birth, color of eyes and hair, sex, height and weight, the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, the amount of bail set, the time and manner of release or the location where the individual is currently being held, and all charges the individual is being held upon, including any outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions and parole or probation holds.

And so ultimately, once Commander Timothy Scott Harrelson got over his initial unfettered joy at being hit up by a simp reporter for some simpy info about bullshit LAPD arrests for selling freaking cannabis during a pandemic, the LAPD produced exactly that information for the arrests of three people which, I guess they’re asserting, were the basis for Harrelsons copaganda tweet. You can see it at the end of this post if you’re interested.

You can see from the repeated explicit references to §6245(f) that that’s why they’re supplying the information. Also you can see from the addresses that the putative Downtown luxury apartments in Harrelson’s version were apparently actually live/work lofts in the Arts District at Factory Place. It’s mysterious and inscrutable enough as to why LAPD is wasting time investigating and arresting weed dealers at any time. Why they’re doing it during a pandemic is anyone’s guess.

It’s probably something simple, though. Like maybe they just need targets to keep the boys from getting barracks fever now that crime is down. Or maybe they just need a certain number of bullshit felony arrests for their own cop purposes. Or who knows. But that’s the story of that tweet, and also the story of the limitations of the Public Records Act for getting timely information out of the government when they don’t want to hand it over.


Booking Number: 5927426

Name: COLEMAN, EARL

Sex: M

Hair: BLK

Eyes: BRO

Height: 511

Weight: 200

Date of Birth: 08/27/69

Date/Time of Arrest: 05/06/20 15:45

Date/Time of Booking: 05/06/20 22:32

Location of Arrest: 500 N ALAMEDA AV

Bail: 0

Type: FELONY

Charge & Code: 11366 HS

Definition: LOC. FOR SALES

Additional Charges*: not stated in report

Occupation: UNKNOWN

Location Where Held: Metropolitan Detention Center

Time/Manner of Release: not stated in report

Factual Circumstances of Arrest: Ofcrs conducted a traffic stop at 500 N Alameda in response to a narcotics investigation for a vehicle that was being driven by Susp. Ofcrs discovered 2 bags in vehicle containing currency and marijuana. Susp was arrested for felony 11366 HS.


Booking Number: 5927453

Name: TORRES, EDWARD

Sex: M

Hair: BRO

Eyes: BRO

Height: 509

Weight: 200

Date of Birth: 01/13/74

Date/Time of Arrest: 05/06/20 15:45

Date/Time of Booking: 05/06/20 23:22

Location of Arrest: 1330 FACTORY PL

Bail: 0

Type: F

Charge & Code: 11366 HS

Definition: LOCATION FOR SALE

Additional Charges*: not stated in report

Occupation: NONE

Location Where Held: Metropolitan Detention Center

Time/Manner of Release: not stated in report

Factual Circumstances of Arrest: Susp arrested in response to narcotics investigation at location of arrest.


Booking Number: 5927431

Name: BULLARD, STEPHEN

Sex: M

Hair: GRY

Eyes: BLU

Height: 604

Weight: 205

Date of Birth: 12/09/81

Date/Time of Arrest: 05/06/20 15:45

Date/Time of Booking: 05/06/20 22:43

Location of Arrest: 1308 FACTORY PL

Bail: 0

Type: F

Charge & Code: 11366 HS

Definition: MAINT LOC SALES

Additional Charges*: not stated in report

Occupation: UNEMPLOYED

Location Where Held: Metropolitan Detention Center

Time/Manner of Release: not stated in report

Factual Circumstances of Arrest: Susp arrested in response to narcotics investigation at location of arrest.


*Includes warrants and parole or probation holds.


Image of Commander Timothy Scott Harrelson is ©2020 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and then there’s the cover of the Rolling Stone or what passes for it in these latter days.

  1. Or maybe it’s just his Twitter-specific location identifier and doesn’t reflect where he actually was when he tweeted, which as much as I’d like to mock the dude for tweeting from Simi I would still tend to be relieved about because creepy!
  2. There’s a screenshot of the tweet below and also at this link. LAPD has a nasty habit of disappearing their tweets if they attract the putatively wrong kind of attention.
  3. Not the kind of thing that ought to be handled by armed police at all, I’m thinking, but especially not during a pandemic.
  4. OK, that’s not strictly true. They respond on a regular schedule. Every two weeks they run through all of them and extend the due date by another two weeks. It’s illegal and they won’t be able to keep it up forever but that’s where we’re at now.
  5. When I say that it worked I don’t mean that LAPD responded according to the law. They seem to be incapable of doing that even under the best of circumstances. All I mean is that their level of noncompliance and the style with which they failed to comply was ordinary, not escalated due to me being me. Which is still bad but is way better, at least from the point of view of receiving records.
  6. I know this sounds paranoid, but you’ll see when we start deposing some of those discovery analysts. Yes, this is a hint. Yes, I’m not telling any more details right now. It’s going to be a while, but it’s going to be thorough and extensive. The task is Augean, though, not going to solve the problem, but it won’t be nothing.
  7. Only part of the reason. I have additional evidence which is fairly compelling. Again, stay tuned.
  8. Not that I’m not a reporter now, but pretending to be the kind of reporter I actually am obviously isn’t helpful!
  9. The CPRA request is 20-2860 at lacity.nextrequest.com. It’s presently semi-published in the sense that anyone can see the request and some of the correspondence but the rest of the correspondence is as-yet not visible. They will usually make it visible on request if you’re interested.
  10. OK, I don’t actually know for sure that a Senior Administrative Clerk is of a higher rank than the people who usually respond, whose title is Management Assistant. But it’s not implausible, right?
  11. Even though he never actually did call me, he was apparently planning to, which proves the same point.
  12. Or at least figured out that I was illegit. They finished the whole thing in less than two months, so it’s possible that they only knew I was fake and didn’t know it was me, since they usually take far, far longer than two months, even than two years, for my requests. But this turned out to be a particularly simple one.
  13. I didn’t use anything close to the highest level of opsec with respect to the domain registration, but I don’t want to share details in case they haven’t yet figured out the vulnerability. The highest level is undetectable but it takes a significant amount of planning ahead to pull it off whereas the method I used here only takes about 20 minutes to buy the domain and set it up for email.
  14. As always, it takes a lawsuit to get them to stop doing this, and even then they only stop in the particular case at hand. It will take an entirely different kind of lawsuit to get them to stop in general.
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