I mean, the headline says it all. If you ever make a request for public records involving emails from LAPD their NextRequest platform will tell you:
Please be advised that with regards to requests for Department e-mails, the Department only has access to e-mails from January 1, 2016 to present. E-mails that were sent or received prior to 2016 are not available to be queried or otherwise retrieved. When requesting e-mails, please be as specific as possible as to time frame, subject matter, key words, etc. that will enable the Department to conduct a thorough search for responsive records.
And LAPD has lied to me so often, so thoroughly, and so needlessly, that for a long time I just assumed that they were lying about that also and didn’t think much of it. But at some point I started to wonder, so I made a request for public records relating to the statement, and, amazingly, they produced a whole set of emails about it!1
And it appears to be true that they no longer have any LAPD emails from prior to January 1, 2016. They’re just gone. The date, by the way, is when LAPD switched from Groupwise to Outlook for email. According to LAPD Info Tech officer Javier Macias:
Groupwise/Retain emails are no longer available as that email server is out of service. Our IT staff and vendors attempted for 4 months to revive this server without any success and we no longer can retrieve any data from it. Only Dept emails on the Outlook e-discovery server are available from 1/1/2016 to present.
Imagine actual grownups running an actual professional IT department who don’t back up their servers before switching them out. But of course it happens. And who knows what history is lost here? The Dorner thing, for sure, which took place in 2013. And infinitely many other important matters.
What’s really lost, though, what’s lost whenever the City destroys or carelessly loses records like this, is our history. Sure, Dorner occurs to me, but what the historians of the future will find significant is impossible to predict. That’s why record retention is so very important. And there’s really no law in Los Angeles or even in California that requires retention of emails beyond two years. This must change, certainly.
Tangentially, or maybe not tangentially at all, in 2016 LA Catholic Worker and LA CAN were suing LAPD yet again and LAPD stalled and stalled and stalled their discovery productions of emails2And possibly of other stuff too but definitely emails.[/note/ to the point where the plaintiffs filed a motion to hold them in contempt.
And the City produced an LAPD IT person who did say under oath that the files were corrupted, but didn’t say how or why. I don’t know if this 2016 thing is related to the January 2020 announcement that all the emails were gone. Macias writes as if this is a new development and there’s just not enough information yet to determine if they’re linked. If I had to guess I would say they’re not, which conclusion I’m basing on Macias’s tone and also Brian O’Connor’s tone in the emails. He’s in charge of LAPD Discovery and in December 2019 the Groupwise failure seemed like news to him: “According to ITG, Groupwise email is done.”
Another interesting bit of information found in these emails has to do with LAPD’s procedures for handling discovery. They apparently have a dedicated subdomain, incidents.lapd.lacity.org, on which they store cases. You can see this most clearly on page 28 of the email spool they produced, specifically in the below-transcribed email from Javier Macias to various parties asking them to update him on a list of discovery matters that were apparently overdue in December 2019:
From: Javier Macias <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 5:33 PM
To: Tyrone Jew <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Rachel McClain <email@example.com>; Danielle Truscott <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Alan Maestro <email@example.com>; Brianna Aldana <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Judi Stuart Lewis <email@example.com>
Cc: Boris Quintanilla <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Karen Bottancino <email@example.com>; Tracy Allen <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Loanne Truong <email@example.com>; Anthony Espinoza <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Jeannine Bedard <email@example.com>; Diane Escalante <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Brian O Connor <email@example.com>; Alexis Cameron <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Shavonne Robinson <email@example.com>; Kristin Johns <firstname.lastname@example.org>; John McMahon <email@example.com>; Robert Bean <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Past Due LAD Request assigned to ITD-MMSS
The following LAD Request in PTS are past due and we need a status updates as to when we can expect them completed to avoid litigation:
1052463, assigned to Truscott due
date 11/22/19 http://incidents.lapd.lacity.org/Proj/Proj/Edit.aspx?pid=1052463
1052495, assigned to Truscott due date 11/22/19
1053001, assigned to Aldana due
date 11/22/19 http://incidents.lapd.lacity.org/Proj/Proj/Edit.aspx?pid=1053001
1053065, assigned to Truscott due date 11/22/19
1053147, assigned to Truscott due date 11/22/19
1053212, assigned to Truscott due date 11/22/19
1052096, assigned to Truscott due date 11/22/19
Please provide a status update so I may notify LAD when they can expect to receive the email queries.
Javier Macias, Police Sergeant II
Los Angeles Police Department
Information Technology Group
Commanding Officer’s Administrative Section
And of course I already have requests in for the listed information and also more general information about this computer system, so stay tuned!