We Now Know That The LAPD Lied To A Whole Series Of Public Records Requesters About Facial Recognition — They’ve Been Lying About It For Years — And They Lied About It To Me Too — I Recently Discovered Proof That LAPD Discovery Had Records Responsive To My Request In Their Actual Possession At The Time That LAPD Discovery Boss Kris Tu Told Me There Weren’t Any — And The LAPD Department Manual CPRA Section Requires LAPD To Comply — And States Explicitly That If They Willfully Withhold Records They May Be Subject To Punishment — Which Is Why Today I Filed A Complaint Against Tu — And Masoomeh Cheraghi — A Civilian Analyst Who Had One Of The Responsive Records In Her Possession When Tu Illegally Closed My Request — And You Can Read It Here!

NOTE: This post is about a complaint I filed today against a couple of LAPD CPRA staff and that’s a link straight to it if you want to skip the post.

In August 2019 I learned that LAPD used facial recognition technology to, among other random things, identify homeless people in Chinatown on behalf of outlaw Chinatown BID Boss George Yu. In September 2019 I asked LAPD for records relating to their use of facial recognition. They stalled and stalled and stalled until June 2020 when Kris Tu, a detective in charge of LAPD’s CPRA unit, told me that there were no responsive records.

Which, as was very recently revealed, was certainly not the whole truth. Furthermore, I recently obtained this email chain involving LAPD CPRA analyst Masoomeh Cheraghi. She responded in May 2020 to a February 2020 email announcing various LAPD facial recognition policies, announced that she was working on my request,1 and was told by LAPD staff that there was in fact a Detective Bureau Notice on the subject.

However, she failed to produce either the email or the Notice, although both are clearly responsive to my request. Not only that, but in June 2020 Kris Tu told me explicitly that there were no responsive records despite the fact that Cheraghi, his subordinate, provably knew of at least two of them and had at least one of them in her possession.

And it’s a famous flaw in the CPRA that generally lawsuits are the only way to enforce it. If agencies are willing to just flat-out lie about what records they have negotiation or discussion might seem pointless. But these two outlaws are LAPD employees, which creates some other options. Violations of the Public Records Act, since 2019, have been violations of Section 406.30 of the LAPD Department Manual. The whole section was added in 2019 as part of LAPD’s CPRA settlement with ACLU-SoCal, and includes this lovely bit here:

Any Department employee may be assigned to assist in the work of responding to a public records request and/or preparing records for disclosure. A Department employee who willfully withholds Department records or information relating to a CPRA request or willfully violates any other obligation under this policy may be subject to discipline.

So on that basis, earlier today, I sent a letter to Bryan Lium of LAPD Legal Affairs, who oversees the CPRA Unit, making precisely these points and asking him to punish Tu and Cheraghi for their transgressions. Almost certainly nothing will come of it but this post,2 but nevertheless it seems worthwhile. And you can read a transcription of it below!

Captain Bryan Lium

Los Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Captain Lium,

By way of this letter I hereby submit a complaint against Detective Kris Tu (34895) and civilian employee Masoomeh Cheraghi (n5890) for violating department policy with respect to the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) as enshrined in the Department Manual at 406.30 and as agreed to by the City of Los Angeles and LAPD in the September 2019 settlement agreement in Winston v. City of Los Angeles. This settlement agreement is appended for your convenience and appears below as on page .

On September 12, 2019 I submitted CPRA Request 19-5156 to LAPD via the NextRequest platform. In part I asked for “[d]epartment policies on facial recognition.” This request is appended for your convenience and appears below as on page . The request was assigned to Cheraghi at some point.

Between December 2019 and May 2020 Cheraghi extended the due date six times. In February 2020 Cheraghi received an email from LAPD’s DOC Communications Division regarding LAPD Department facial recognition policies. A copy of an email chain containing this letter is appended for your convenience and appears below as on page .1

The email quotes Lizabeth Rhodes extensively regarding LAPD Facial Recognition (“FR”) policies. Rhodes lists a number of non-optional requirements surrounding LAPD’s use of facial recognition, e.g.:

  1. LAPD FR users must adhere to LACRIS policies.

  2. LAPD may not use FR as the sole investigative tool.

  3. LAPD may not use FR to establish a database.

  4. LAPD may not use FR as a general identification tool apart from an investigation.

  5. LAPD Commanders must discuss state law about FR with their commands.

  6. LAPD plans to issue a Detective Bureau Notice about FR in the near future.2

In May 2020 Cheraghi emailed Raymona Moussa to inquire about the status of the Detective Bureau Notice. She says that she needs to know because she’s working on a CPRA request for “department policies on facial recognition.” This shows that at the time she was working on my request Cheraghi was aware of Rhodes’s email. Moussa asked Wai Hon Jung about it and Jung replied that the Notice was completed. See on page below.

Therefore in May 2020, while working on my request, Cheraghi was aware of two distinct responsive records. The first was Rhodes’s February email stating a number of LAPD polices on the use of FR. The second was the Notice. Nevertheless on June 8, 2020 an anonymous LAPD staffer told me that there were no responsive records.

On June 13, 2020 I asked for some help modifying my request, assistance with which is required by the CPRA.3 Cheraghi didn’t respond, despite the fact that by this date she knew that the Notice was complete and could easily have produced it or described it by way of assistance.

On June 16, 2020 Kris Tu responded to the request instead of Cheraghi. He stated definitively that there were no responsive records, despite the fact that his subordinate Cheraghi knew that there were in fact responsive records. See on page .

It’s not plausible that Cheraghi knew these records existed and yet didn’t tell Tu about it. Even if for some reason she didn’t tell him, clearly Tu had a responsibility to ask her before telling me that there were none. So either Tu lied about the existence of responsive records or else he neglected his duty to conduct an adequate search for records by asking the analyst who had been working on the request whether or not she’d found any.

LAPD’s CPRA policies are found in the Department Manual at 406.30. One of the requirements parallels the CPRA’s duty to assist:

The CPRA Unit employees shall assist requestors by helping to identify records and information applicable to the request, describing the information technology and physical location in which the records exist, and providing suggestions for expediting the production of records.

Even though I explicitly asked her to assist me, Cheraghi did not. Furthermore, her supervisor, Kris Tu, also violated this requirement by telling me that there were no responsive records even though (a) there were and (b) I had asked for assistance. Furthermore, even though she had Rhodes’s February email in her possession and even though it is clearly responsive to my request, nevertheless she did not produce it.

In addition, if Tu knew there were responsive records but told me that there were not, he lied and thereby violated 210.20 of the LAPD Department manual, which requires officers to “scrupulously avoid any conduct which might compromise the integrity of himself, his/her fellow officers, or the Department.” If he did not know that there were responsive records then his statement that there were none was not based on readily discoverable facts that Tu had a duty to discover. Thus Tu’s claim was unfounded and he must have known it was unfounded. Thus in this case Tu also violated 210.20.

Finally, the Department Manual at 406.30 states that, with respect to the CPRA:

Any Department employee may be assigned to assist in the work of responding to a public records request and/or preparing records for disclosure. A Department employee who willfully withholds Department records or information relating to a CPRA request or willfully violates any other obligation under this policy may be subject to discipline.

The evidence available to me isn’t sufficient to prove definitively that Cheraghi “willfully with[held]” these records or if she was ordered to withhold them from me. Regardless of this, though, it’s clear that she violated Department policy by failing to assist me even after I asked her directly to do so.

Furthermore it’s clear that Tu ordered her to withhold the record either directly or by removing her from the request, falsely stating that there were no responsive records, and then closing it. You have resources unavailable to me to discover the extent of Cheraghi’s culpability with respect to willful withholding. Tu’s guilt, on the other hand, is clear.

These violations are not technicalities, they’re not trivial. Tu’s transgressions violate my right, guaranteed by the California Constitution, to have LAPD comply with the CPRA. The intense public interest in this subject can be seen by the fact that once LAPD decided finally to tell the truth about its use of FR, the story was national news and is still being discussed. Tu’s violations and Cheraghi’s potential violations have done serious damage to LAPD/Community relations and have prevented the public from understanding this crucial issue in a timely manner.

Please investigate this matter and subject Tu and Cheraghi to appropriate discipline based on your findings. Regardless of LAPD’s determination with respect to their culpability, please arrange for LAPD’s CPRA unit to begin complying with its legal obligations by assisting requesters to find the documents they seek. Also please arrange for LAPD’s CPRA unit to begin complying with the LAPD handbook by not lying about the existence of requested records.

Thank you,

M K

Los Angeles, CA 900

@.

Exhibits

Exhibit – September 2019 LAPD Settlement with ACLU of Southern California

Exhibit – Request 19-5156 on Facial Recognition

Exhibit – Email chain about LAPD Department Facial Recognition policies


  1. Note that I don’t have a copy of this email in itself, but only the email chain in which it appears below. Although the metadata has been deleted from the February email for some reason it’s possible to establish that Cheraghi received this email by the fact that she replied to it or forwarded it, and hence must have received it.

  2. Writing in February 2020.

  3. At 6253.1.

  1. Finally. It had only been kicking around for eight months at that point.
  2. I mean, and the post I write like 18 months from now when they send me a half page letter stating that they investigated and found that events didn’t happen like I said they did. Which is actually a real finding they can make.
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