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.
On January 13, 2019 I asked the Los Angeles Police Department for emails between CD13 staffer Dan Halden and any LAPD employee from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2018. Yesterday, eight months later, they produced emails from October and November 2018 with the promise of more to come. How we got to this point is the subject of today’s post.1 Here’s what the request said exactly:
Per my rights under the California Public Records Act, please provide all correspondence between anyone who works in the Los Angeles Police Department AND firstname.lastname@example.org, for the time period of January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2018. Correspondence is defined as all emails, texts or other communications.
To be honest, when I made this request in January 2019 I was expecting LAPD to refuse to produce the records on technical grounds,2 And on January 18, 2019 they did exactly that. They gave two separate and mutually contradictory reasons for refusing to produce.
First they told me that “[y[our request does not describe the records sought clearly enough to permit my staff to determine whether any responsive documents exist.” This claim is based on the CPRA at §6253(b), which requires of requests that they “reasonably [describe] an identifiable record or records”. LAPD’s second reason for refusing to produce was that it would be too much work:
A search of email communications and correspondence for “anyone who works in the Department” would be unduly burdensome for the Department as interpreted in the “public interest” provision of section 6255 of the Act, and would require a separate search of each individual email account of approximately 14,400 Department email accounts.
Last week attorneys for Los Angeles Catholic Worker and LA Community Action Network filed an application requesting that the City be held in contempt for its misfeasance in what has turned out to be painful, drawn-out discovery process. This morning, mere minutes ago, plaintiffs’ attorney Shayla Myers filed a supplemental declaration in support (along with an exhibit) in which she states:
I am producing this supplemental declaration to update the Court about facts which Plaintiffs have discovered since the ex parte motion to hold the City in contempt was filed. In particular, Plaintiffs have discovered that certain representations by the City of Los Angeles appear to be inaccurate. While the City of Los Angeles has maintained since July 2015 that it cannot do a global search of emails in the possession of the LAPD, Plaintiffs discovered at a deposition of the Person Most Knowledgeable on behalf of the City on February 22, 2016 that the LAPD employs e-discovery software that allows the LAPD to search all emails sent and received by LAPD officers since March 2013, that the software is designed to facilitate global keyword searches, and that when the LAPD has done such a search in the past, it was completed within a week.