The City of Los Angeles famously and frequently violates the California Public Records Act. One of the most difficult-to-counter ways in which they do this is to deny that they have responsive records at all. It’s pernicious because the only recourse for violations is to file a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court but the statute only authorizes petitions when:
it is made to appear by verified petition … that certain public records are being improperly withheld from a member of the public.
That is, if the City says there are no records and there’s no evidence to the contrary it’s likely a judge will believe the City’s claim and deny the petition. Which means it’s often useful to have evidence that responsive records exist even before requesting them. It’s also really important to duplicate requests to as many City departments as may have copies, since they all have different search methods.
Fairly regularly one City department will say that there are no responsive records while another one will produce proof that the first was lying. For a recent and spectacular example of this phenomenon take a look at this stunningly good Twitter thread from @LANCWatch.
Sometimes even the same department will produce proof that they themselves are lying, an example of which is the subject of today’s post! On June 19, 2021 I asked LA Sanitation for some information about ride-alongs on their CARE/CARE+ homeless encampment sweeps:
Continue reading LA City Sanitation Blatantly Lied In A Response To A CPRA Request For Information About Ride-Alongs With CARE/CARE+ Encampment Sweep Teams — They Said They Didn’t Do Ride-Alongs — But I Already Knew — And Could Prove — Using Evidence Produced By LA San In Response To Another Request — That They Did Before I Made The Request — This Kind Of Dishonest Nonsense Completely Derails Requests From People Who Don’t Know That They Lie About CPRA Requests All The Time — And Is The Zillionth Reason We So Badly Need A Municipal Sunshine Law In The City Charter
In 2020 LAPD was in full-on attack mode against the protesters who filled the streets of Los Angeles supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and other progressive causes. They shot, beat, and falsely arrested protesters by the hundreds. As part of their carefully planned media response strategy LAPD engaged former Police Commission president Gerald Chaleff to write a report on their misbehavior.
Given the psychopathically lenient approach the Commission takes with respect to LAPD oversight no one sensible expected Chaleff’s report to tell much truth, and we the sensible certainly were neither disappointed in this expectation nor surprised that Chaleff’s recommendations boiled down to the usual training, training, and more training.
Chaleff’s connections with LAPD, from his time on the Commission to his stint as William Bratton’s Special Assistant for Constitutional Policing, whatever that may be, have been widely reported. But I haven’t seen any reporting on the fact that in February 2020, before COVID shut down the City and before he was engaged to write his report, Chaleff applied to LAPD to be a civilian hearing officer.
Continue reading Gerald Chaleff — Who Wrote A Report Exonerating LAPD Of Moral Responsibility For Their Appalling Violence Against Protesters During The 2020 Civil Unrest — Applied In February 2020 To Be An LAPD Civilian Hearing Examiner — Which Casts Even More Doubt On His Ethical Independence From LAPD — Hearing Examiner Applicants Have Their Fingerprints Run Against DOJ And FBI Databases — Even Chaleff Had To Do This Although He Was Formerly President Of The Police Commission — No Surprise That He Came Back Clean But What Is Surprising Is That I Have Copies Of The Confidential Reports! — And So Do You If You Want Them!!
The Los Angeles Police Department routinely violates the civil rights of Angelenos. They kill, beat, and maim, of course, but also conduct countless racist pretextual stops of drivers and bicyclists. They’re allowed to do this by the LA City Council, and without good information about what they’re up to it’s not easy for Angelenos to control them.
But they also routinely violate the California Public Records Act. The details range from egregiously obvious to subtly technical but in every case the goal, and for the most part the actual result, is to keep public records out of the hands of the public. They have been sued repeatedly and successfully for this over the last five years. To my knowledge they’ve never prevailed in a public records case.
LAPD’s violations are expensive. Since 2016 the City of Los Angeles has paid out at least $1,377,224 to settle CPRA suits against the police department only. Given the number of pending cases this figure is likely to top $1.5M by the end of 2021. The fact that settlement payments come from the City’s general fund clearly facilitates LAPD’s strategy of denying access to records until a suit is filed.
One of the most common reasons LAPD gives for denying the public access to records is that to produce them would be “burdensome.” There’s no such exemption in the CPRA, but courts have found, in some cases, that a public agency’s use of its resources, including employee salaries, to fill a request serves the public interest less than the production of the records would do.
Continue reading Los Angeles Has Paid Almost $1.5M Settling Recent Public Records Suits Against LAPD — But LAPD Continues To Violate The Law With Impunity — Newly Obtained Reports Show That They’ve Radically Decreased Staff In The CPRA Unit — Even As They Deny Requests Which They Claim Would Use Too Much Staff Time To Fill — They Pad Their Request Completion Stats By Prioritizing Innocuous Automated Reports Rather Than Substantial Material — And They Handle Requests From Mainstream Media Outlets More Promptly Than Others
In January 2021 Lorena Ochoa of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps emailed Ellen Endo of the Little Tokyo Business Improvement District to tell her that one of their Big Belly trash cans often had hypodermic needles in it and that therefore they wouldn’t service it any more:
Just want to bring to your attention the high volume of syringes being tossed inside this bigbelly. I cannot have the corpsmember driver service anymore bigbelly’s under these conditions. It’s a safety hazardous matter taking syringes to the City of LA sanitation site. I’m going to attach a list of Call Active Clean up companies that can come out and service these types of matters.
Endo wrote to Adriana Velasquez, a staffer in CD14 rep Kevin De Leon’s office, explaining Ochoa’s position and suggesting that they replace the Big Bellies with normal wire trash cans as soon as possible:
Continue reading According To LAPD Senior Lead Officer Adrian Lopez “providing services to the homeless is useless. The homeless need to be removed … and the area cleaned and restored back to its original state.” — The City Of LA Cedes Municipal Services To Private Actors Like BIDs — Who Are Incapable And Unwilling To Provide Them — And To Police — Who Are Incapable Of Delivering Anything Other Than Violence — Here’s An Example From Little Tokyo