You want to know how angry the LAPD is at me? Well, they are so angry that Chief Michel Moore, who apparently reads my blog obsessively but fails to understand most of it, wrote me a really aggressive, really disrespectful letter about how freaking mean I am to everybody and they’re not going to work very hard on my requests for public records going forward.1 No, really, read the letter! Cut through all the nonsense in there and all it really says is that they’re going to continue not filling my requests and lying about the reasons. But of course they’re doing that anyway, so it’s not much of a threat.
But let’s talk about why Moore is so angry at me! Start with the quality of my requests, and remember, this is Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore speaking: you frequently submit CPRA requests to the Department that are complex, vague, and/or overbroad, which create considerable burdens for the Department, and which significantly constrain the ability of some of the Department’s staff to fulfill their other work responsibilities and efficiently serve other members of the public.
This is interesting, because much of what he says is wrong. Some of it’s actually incredibly deceptive. First of all, I never write vague requests. I just don’t. What would be the point? Second, my requests are not overbroad, a word which in any case does not have an objective meaning in relation to the CPRA. Finally, it’s possible that some of my requests are complex, although I doubt it. I can’t think of any that aren’t straightforward.
His choice of the word “burdens” is also a ploy. There’s some case law that says that agencies can deny requests if filling them would require so much work that it’d substantially harm the agency’s ability to do its job. This is important for small agencies and plausibly for agencies without dedicated CPRA staff.2 It’s never going to apply to LAPD, though. The whole job of the LAPD Public Records Unit is to search for and produce records.
Each analyst works full time. If they’re not working on my requests then they’re working on other requests. The LAPD CPRA people aren’t burdened no matter how many requests they have. They work precisely the same number of hours in any case. His other complaint is slightly less groundless. He claims that my requests significantly constrain the ability of some of the Department’s staff to fulfill their other work responsibilities and efficiently serve other members of the public.
Why only some of the staff? Let the others of the staff, the unconstrained or not significantly constrained ones, work on my requests. Let the constrained work on others. I mean, that’s kind of a joke, but obviously this is a scheduling problem, not a problem with me. This is supposedly why we even have a freaking managerial class; to increase efficiency through organization.
LAPD doesn’t have any kind of scheduling system at all, though, as far as I can see. They let analysts choose which requests they’ll work on, and the analysts choose the easy ones so they can close a lot. Mine aren’t so easy because they’re written properly and actually describe LAPD records. LAPD closes the vast majority of its requests because they’re incoherent, they’re directed to the wrong agency, or they ask for stuff that everyone asks for and can be closed by pasting in a template response.
Moore’s next gripe is that too many of my requests are still open: For example, the Department estimates that, as of February 28, 2020, it had approximately eighty (80) open CPRA requests from you, which constituted forty percent (40%) of the Department’s total open CPRA case load. The Department has since closed some of these requests, but you have submitted additional requests during this period as well, and the Department currently estimates that it has approximately ninety-three (93) open CPRA requests from you.
It’s conceivable that what Moore says here is true, although I have not checked, but it can’t possibly matter.3 He’s complaining about the number of my requests LAPD hasn’t processed yet rather than the number of requests I submit. This number isn’t under my control and it’s high it’s because LAPD won’t process my requests. Whatever about this is making Moore unhappy it has nothing to do with me. If he’s unhappy that I have a lot of open requests he should tell his subordinates to stop fooling around and handle them!
But it gets both worse and weirder. Moore: In addition to the high volume of your CPRA requests, many of your requests are complex, vague, overbroad, and/or seek voluminous records – all of which requires Department staff to spend considerable time attempting to decipher what records you are seeking.
See how Moore switched from the high volume of my open requests to the high volume of my requests. As I said, this is deceptive since the first number is high due to LAPD inaction and it’s absolutely independent of the second number other than being greater than or equal to it.
But far worse is his accusation that many of [my] requests are complex, vague, overbroad, and/or seek voluminous records. This is completely false. It’s possibly technically true in a narrow sense given that some of my requests do seek voluminous records and that the meaning of the word many is subjective but the rest of it is utterly wrong and Moore’s reliance on “and/or” including “or” is intellectually dishonest.
I could with as much truth say that Moore is a white supremacist outlaw gang leader, prone to giggling as he covers up the dirty deeds of his subordinates, a liar, a bank robber, a member of the American Nazi Party, a disloyal spy for LAPPL, and/or a guy named Michel Moore. I’ve asked Moore and/or his subordinates to produce one single example of a request of mine that is complex or vague or overbroad but so far he and/or they have been unwilling to do so. Which isn’t a surprise since they can’t. There are no such requests. Chief Moore just made this up or had it made up on his behalf. And there’s worse! Moore:
In reviewing your past and current requests, as well as information published on your internet blog, it has become increasingly apparent to the Department that some of your requests are intentionally designed to be unclear, confounding, and/or overbroad.
Not only has he refused to give examples of my putatively faulty requests but now he’s accusing me of making them faulty on purpose! You’d think that the guy would give an example at this point, but he still doesn’t! Instead he quotes a line from my blog! Here is the finest close reader of his generation, Michel Moore, interpreting my blog as text:
For example, in a blog post published in August 2019, you stated that when submitting CPRA requests to the Department, you “don’t ever like to let slip exactly what [you’re] looking for,” and therefore, you generally make overbroad requests.
There’s a lot going on here, friends! First, take a look at the post that Moore culled the quote from. The post is about how I got a list of calls for service for LAPD Reporting District 111 over a certain date range. I asked for:
requests for service to reporting district 111 for August 2019 please, showing the following info:
1. Time of call
2. Location of call
3. Name of caller
4. Facts reported by caller
5. LAPD response to call
This is hardly an example of overbroad vague complexity as Moore would have you believe. In fact, if I had told them what I was looking for, which was the names of the cops that hassled a particular guy in Alpine Park on a particular day, it wouldn’t have helped them find the information more quickly. It would have made it harder, actually, because the analyst would have had to figure out the reporting district.
And sure, the request is broader than the individual piece of information I sought (although in no sane sense is it overbroad), but again, that helps rather than hinders the requester. I tailored the request specifically to LAPD’s search capabilities, including no more and no less information than the analyst needed to find what I wanted. That I did this effectively is pretty likely given that it took LAPD only about six hours to produce this one. If Chief Moore thinks this request proves a single one of the points he’s trying to make then, respectfully,4 Chief Moore is tripping balls.
Furthermore, note where Moore ended the quote and started his own sentence: “don’t ever like to let slip exactly what [you’re] looking for,” and therefore, you generally make overbroad requests. While it is true that I “don’t ever like to let slip exactly what I’m looking for,” this certainly doesn’t imply Moore’s desired conclusion: “and therefore, you generally make overbroad requests.” As I said, telling LAPD what I’m looking in the sense that I meant in the line he quotes would generally be counterproductive.
Instead I tell LAPD what I’m looking for in the sense that the law requires me to do, which is to “reasonably [describe] an identifiable record or records”.5 The first thing I’m looking for is no one’s business and it wouldn’t help them to know anyway. This is why the law only requires the second. To conflate them, as Moore does here, is either careless or dishonest, but wrong in either case. Moore then ups his name-calling:
Such gamesmanship is wasteful of government time and resources, and discourteous to other members of the public who also have an interest in having their requests fulfilled promptly.
Remember, though, I don’t engage in “gamesmanship” and when Moore refers to it as “such” he’s relying on facts not in evidence. Or on facts which never will be in evidence since they’re actually not even facts. By the way, evidently accusing me of “gamesmanship” is a la mode over at the City Attorney’s office. After this letter was written but before I received a copy Bethelwel Wilson, who staffs CPRA for the CA, called me exactly that. It’s as if they all sit around talking about me!6
And that is not even all of my sins! Next Moore is angry that I won’t talk to LAPD Discovery off-platform. Why would it matter where we talk? Moore: Additionally, the Department’s attempts to engage with you and to assist you in making more focused, specific requests have often been unfruitful or met with resistance. For example, when the Department’s CPRA analysts seek to discuss your requests with you, you have refused to communicate with them outside of the NextRequest platform.
Note that they’re trying to assist me in making more focused requests when no one has actually managed to give an example of one of my putatively unfocused requests. And I’m rude, too! And the guy whose armed thugs beat and/or kill innocent people every day has the nerve to say I’m combative: “When you engage in foilow-up communications via NextRequest, the tone of your messages is often combative and discourteous.” I think he’s mostly mad that it’s not yet possible to spray teargas over the Internet.
And finally, there’s this, which shows that a lot of what the Chief said about me before was even more delusionally unfactual than it appeared to be:
The Department’s difficulties in engaging with you is further compounded by the fact that many of your requests are submitted anonymously or using pseudonyms. Therefore, the Department requests that you cease submitting requests under pseudonyms or that if you seek to avoid having your name tied to your requests on the NextRequest platform that you indicate to the Department the pseudonyms you have used or intend to use.
And I guess it’s a little embarrassing to admit that when I first got this letter I thought that despite all the nasty names the Chief called me and despite his confusion about the facts, maybe LAPD was finally responding to my repeated pleas that we meet and confer about a mutually agreeable CPRA process. So I wrote to Marla Ciuffetelli, LAPD Discovery Supreme Commander, and offered to make a single chronological list of all my pending requests if they would talk with me about process and concede a few things that are important to me.
She wrote back pretty quickly to tell me that the letter was for information only and that LAPD would not negotiate. So it’s pretty weird that LAPD wants me to give them a list of my email addresses in exchange for their promise to keep doing whatever it is they’re doing? Why would anyone do that? And also, this is proof that actually LAPD doesn’t know which requests are mine and which aren’t.
Not for sure. I mean, they know some of them because I file lawsuits about them. And they know others because I write or tweet about them before they publish them. But they don’t know all of them, so when they say that 40% of their open requests are from me the figure is just made up. Also I’m pretty sure they think some requesters are me that actually aren’t.
The fact that they subject these random folks to their illegal obstructionist policies just because they decided they were me is not only bad, it’s contrary to their oft-stated goal of preventing my requests from slowing down the requests of innocent random other requesters. In fact, like LAPD often does, their only goal is enforcement, their only standard expedience, and stray bullets only strike collateral damage. So that’s that.
Oh, and another bit of irony is that whatever this policy is they say they’re following, they’re not even following it. They’ve been ignoring some of my requests for more than two years at this point but they’ve filled plenty of other newer ones, even plenty where I know they know they’re from me. If they were reallly dealing with them in order this wouldn’t have happened.
Which finally brings us around to 2012! To August 16, 2012, actually. When Martin Bland, who used to run LAPD Discovery in those days, and a request for public records that the Department had received from historian Max Felker-Kantor, author of the supremely important Policing Los Angeles. I don’t have a copy of the request itself, but read Bland’s response. Felker-Kantor asked for:
Materials relating to the Office of the Chief of Police under Chief William Parker, Chief Edward Davis, and Chief Darryl Gates between the years (1965 and 1992) including inter-departmental correspondence, meeting minutes, and policy directives. These materials are in Records Groups PDX, PDX/80, PDX/82, PDX/98, and PDC. The other subject of the materials I am requesting relate to civil rights organizations, community groups, responses to urban unrest and riots by the police department, and policies relating to gangs and drug trafficking during between [sic] [sic]7 1965 and 1992.
OK, look at this! It’s broad, one might say overbroad. The first part reasonably identifies records, which is good, but the second part is vague and unfocused in that it does not actually identify records. It describes them. There’s nothing wrong with this under the law, but Chief Michel Moore is sure mad at me about it and I didn’t even do it. What do you think LAPD said to Felker-Kantor about this?!
Basically they said there are 254 boxes of records with at least 3,000 pages per box, which is a lot. They complain about the number of records I ask for too! They whined about how busy they were, how much work they had to do, and how understaffed they were. They do this with me too! They complained that they have other customers, just like they do with me! Think of the other requesters! And then they said, fine, we will review one or two boxes a week, sometimes more, and you can come look at them box by box. Not. At. All. Like. Me. You can read the letter at the link and I’ve transcribed the relevant part below. So what might the difference be?
◆ He only made one request but I make hundreds. — There were 254 boxes with 3,000 pages each. This is 762,000 pages. This is a lot of stuff. I don’t believe that all my requests to the City of Los Angeles from 20148 to about twenty minutes ago, encompass that many pages in total. This one request.
◆ 2012 was a long time ago, maybe things were different then — LAPD Discovery had less staff in 2012 than they have now. Also, I submitted my first request ever to LAPD in January 2015, not long after Felker-Kanter’s request. In fact, if they stuck to their own schedule it’s pretty likely that Felker-Kanter was still reviewing records when I made my request. The set-up over there was the same. And LAPD ignored my request for months and months. It took really heroic efforts to get them to even talk to me about it.
◆ Felker-Kanter is a professional historian and his work is really really important — This is almost right. But I doubt LAPD cares about his work except that they would hate it if they were literate enough to read it.9 I think that what’s more likely is they were worried about the bad publicity he could bring them. Also the fact that at that time he worked for USC must have been important. USC and LAPD are intertwined in any number of unholy ways. Perhaps this is the result of some backroom deal. Or just a matter of understanding shared social interests. Who knows. Obviously the CPRA is no respecter of persons, and from the point of view of the government my work and Felker-Kanter’s are on a par, along with every single other person in the world. We don’t want our government deciding whose views are sufficiently legit to get their requests filled.
And that, friends, is the story! Remember this next time you make a CPRA request to LAPD, or really, any City department, and they tell you they can’t fill it because there are too many records and it’d be burdensome. Just ask them if its much more than three quarters of a million and will they commit to producing three to six thousand per week. It’s not. And they still won’t.
Commission staff has identified approximately 173 boxes containing potentially responsive documents. The Department has identified approximately 81 boxes containing documents which may be responsive to your request. Consequently, there are approximately 254 total boxes potentially responsive to your request. There is an estimated 3,000 plus pages of documents in each box.
While both the Department and Commission are aware that some sort of access to the records contained in the boxes may have been granted pursuant to requests dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, there is no way of knowing the scope of that access, and whether information and/or complete documents were redacted under exemptions of the Act. Therefore, the Department and Commission must treat your request as calling for a new and independent review of the contents of the subject boxes, in order to make this preliminary assessment.
The LAPD Discovery Unit is responsible for myriad responsibilities associated with the records of the Department, including but not limited to responding to California Public Records Act requests, letter requests, motions in criminal and civil cases for access to confidential and privileged peace officer personnel records, and subpoenas. All of these tasks are performed by a limited number of assigned personnel, whose work schedules have been severely impacted by the fiscal challenges facing the Department, and the City generally.
Notwithstanding the above, both the Department and the Commission desire to provide the greatest degree of access to the documents in question as is reasonably possible, and legally permissible. In that regard, the boxes will be made available for your inspetion immediately following a review of each box’s contents by the Department, to identify any records (or information) over which an exemption would lawfully apply. As each box review is concluded, you will be notified of its availability. It is estimated that staff assigned to perform this task, in addition to their other assigned duties and responsibilities, will make every effort to complete 1-2 boxes reviews per week. Please note that more boxes may be available per week, depending on the overall nature of the documents contained therein.
Image of Michel “Who’s Yer Daddy? Why Look It Is Me!!” Moore is ©2020 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and once up on a thyme!
- Michel Moore signed the letter but clearly he didn’t even read it, let alone did he write it. However, when I asked LAPD’s Public Information Officer Josh Rubenstein how I should attribute the words in the letter he ignored me entirely. Instead Lt. Marla Ciuffetelli, supreme LAPD Discovery boss, told me that her “suggestion would be to advise that it is the Department’s position.” First of all, no one but cops uses the word “advise” in their own voice unless they’re mocking cops or in denial about wanting to be one. Second, she seems to have completely failed to understand that you can’t attribute words by “advis[ing] that it is the Department’s position.” You can’t say “as the Department’s position always says, ‘stop resisting or I’ll slam your mouth into the curb again.'”
- Although there are plenty of agencies, e.g. LAHSA, which seemingly on purpose don’t have dedicated staff and also assign request processing to high level execs to create burdensomeness claims. Also agencies, e.g. LAUSD, purposely understaff their CPRA units to bolster such claims. LAPD is certainly guilty of this. This is an area which really needs to be sorted by legislation.
- I actually can’t check because LAPD refuses to publish open requests, so no one outside their department knows how many there are.
- As long as they’re not presently arresting you, everything LAPD says to you they say “respectfully”. They tell you this every. Single. Time.
- This is the CPRA at §6253(b).
- Actually, they have weekly meetings at LAPD Discovery about me! More news on this when I get around to it!
- The first sic was put in there by the cops because they’re assholes who think they’re funny. The second by me to indicate that they put in the first.
- When I made my first one.
- Basing this snark on Michel Moore’s idiotic misreading of my blog. Probably other cops can read much better than this.