My Public Records Requests Have Apparently Caused Both LAPD And Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson To Embrace A Kind Of Self-Destructive Paranoid Madness — They Are Randomly Accusing Various Not-Me Requesters Of Being Me — LAPD Has Evidently Put Random People Other Than Me On My “Work Plan” — The Plan Amounts To Not Filling My Requests At All — So Basically LAPD Is Denying Requests From Random People In Order To Take Revenge On Me — Which Is Not Only Illegal — It’s Also Idiotic — And Unsustainable — Did I Ever Mention “The Caine Mutiny”? — It’s A Really Good Movie! — Very Timely! — Very Relevant!

Have you ever seen The Caine Mutiny?1 Humphrey Bogart plays Captain Queeg, who at one point calls in all his ship’s officers at 1 am to interrogate them about some putatively missing strawberries. He forces them to investigate all night and give him a report at 8 am. They can’t find the culprit and tell him so, but he regales them with a long story of how, as a young ensign in 1937, he nabbed a cheese thief on his ship who’d made a duplicate pantry key. He told them that he was sure the same thing had happened with the strawberries on the Caine:2

Now, I’ve worked out a very simple plan. First, we collect every key on this ship and tag it with the name of the owner. Second, we strip all hands to make sure we got all the keys. Third, we test each key on the icebox padlock, and the one that fits will give us the name of the owner.

Humphrey Bogart won an Oscar for his role, and as far as I’m concerned he deserved it just for the way he’s fooling with his damn toast in this scene. Anyway, as you probably know, the Los Angeles Police Department is very, very upset with my use of the California Public Records Act. Their displeasure goes to the very top, as shown by this personal letter I received last Summer from supreme LAPD chieftain Michel Moore.

Despite his blah blah blah about a work plan and handling requests sequentially, what they’ve really done is to stop producing records at all. But they’re somewhat hindered in this project by the fact that Gmail is free and the law doesn’t allow them to inquire too deeply into the identities of requesters.

However, they try, they try, and one of the ways they try, it turns out, is by randomly and wrongly accusing various requesters of being me. Their raving paranoia matches and perhaps exceeds Queeg’s. Think I’m exaggerating? Take a look at this blog comment from the other day:

I found your website through the LAPD! I received the same e-mail as yours when I submitted CPRA requests. They kept insisting I was “[Michael Kohlhaas]” and suggested they were unable to complete my CPRA requests because they were focusing on my “other requests.” I told them to cancel those “other requests,” and they stopped replying for nearly a month. They responded to one of CPRA after months, and to another they simply replied saying there were “no existing records.” They took more than half a year to say “no existing records.” Absolute incompetence from their side, even though I have been nothing but respectful and compliant all along.

And this isn’t even the first time this has happened. It’s not just the LAPD, either. Apparently the whole City of Los Angeles3 is obsessed with tracking down my CPRA requests and demonstrating to themselves and the world that I haven’t fooled them, not one little bit.4 So e.g. in September a friend of the blog, who is in fact not me at all, shared some emails from Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson in which Wilson repeatedly accused the requester of being me:

Good Afternoon Mr. [Kohlhaas] (because I know that’s you behind one of your many pseudonyms) – I will speak with CD6 about responding to your request.”

And Wilson just wasn’t having any denials, not at all. As the requester put it, he doubled down:

I am a hundred percent positive you are Mr. [Kohlhaas] (the cosmos tell me), and knowing this fact only makes me that much more motivated to press my clients to respond to your requests in a timely fashion because I know how brilliant and wiley [sic] you are.

This is definitely Queeg-level paranoia. That requester actually isn’t me. I haven’t used a pseudonym to make requests from Wilson in forever, if I ever did, that is.5 LAPD already spends hours each week sending special emails to me and all the random people they think are me announcing that they’re still working on the requests that they’re actually not working on at all.

If we account for the weekly meetings about my requests,6 the memos and emails exchanged with various other staffers, and the lying on the floor in fetal position moaning at the oppressive injustice of the CPRA, even as they complain about the burden my requests place on them, the City of Los Angeles spends more time and energy fretting about my requests than finding a mutually agreeable way to fulfill them.

I’m not sure why they think descending into raging paranoia is a good use of whatever time is left over after all this nonsense, but apparently they do. Bethelwel Wilson was making a slightly sad, slightly bathetic, attempt at sarcasm when he said that knowing a requester was me made him motivated to press my clients to respond to your requests in a timely fashion because I know how brilliant and wiley [sic] you are.

Actually, though, Mr. Wilson, I’m not brilliant, and I’m not even wily.7 What I am, though, is determined to force the City of Los Angeles to comply with its constitutional and statutory obligation to comply with the CPRA.

If the only way to do that is by filing lawsuits repeatedly until something, the bad publicity, the waste of money, the public humiliation, makes someone at the City realize that it’s just easier, or cheaper, or less humiliating, to follow the damn law , then that’s what I’ll do.

There’s an easier way to do things, but apparently the City of LA has so much to hide from the public, so many dirty secrets, that descending into madness and paying out millions of dollars in CPRA settlements is preferable to revealing the truth. For now, anyway.

  1. You should watch it!
  2. Those clips are really worth watching, by the way, and contain no spoilers at all. There’s a fabulous twist ending. I love this movie so much!
  3. In caps like this I mean the government of the City of Los Angeles rather than the city itself.
  4. Narrator voice: He had fooled them repeatedly and would continue to do so.
  5. Why let them know what’s going on at this point? Plus the City of LA keeps telling me that searching for emails is too damn burdensome, so even though that’s utter, complete, and total nonsense of the first water, I’m not about to do extra email searches for the sake of people who complain about it so darn much.
  6. They actually do have weekly meetings about what they’re pleased to call “chronic requesters”, of whom I believe I am the only one so designated. I have proof of this assertion in the form of various appointment calendars but I haven’t had time to write it up yet.
  7. Wilson reads this blog assiduously, looking for evidence against me. Apparently he even reads my Twitter feed!

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