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
I recently learned how to use the California Public Records Act to learn the names of LAPD officers who respond to a call for service. This information is very useful to me, so probably it will be useful to others also. I didn’t previously know how to do it, and I wasn’t even sure it could be done. But it can! Which is important! And hence this post explaining how to do it! To get started you will need to know the date, time, and location of the call. That’s all that’s necessary.
In order to keep the explanation grounded I’m going to write about a concrete real-life example in parallel with the discussion of the general techniques. So imagine you were at Alpine Recreation Center in Chinatown on August 5, 2019 at about 10 p.m. and you saw a police car arrive and the officers talk to someone. We’re going to use the CPRA to learn who those officers were and various other facts about the call.
The first thing you have to do is find the reporting district that the location is in. The LAPD has the whole City divided up into these zones and most of their records are organized by them rather than by other more familiar systems. A little Googlism reveals that the address of the park is 817 Yale St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. The Los Angeles Times has a lovely map of the City organized according to LAPD stuff.
It might be possible to search in that map, I don’t know, but you can also click down into it until you get to the location in question. Maybe it will take a visit to Google Maps to learn where the place is. And eventually you will learn that Alpine Rec Center is in Reporting District 111. Once you know the reporting district it’s time to make the CPRA request.
CPRA requests to LAPD go through the City’s NextRequest platform. This is self-explanatory and I won’t go into details about how to use it. Ask for all calls for service in your reporting district on or about your date/time. I don’t ever like to let slip exactly what I’m looking for, so in this case I asked for all calls for service in RD 111 for August 2019.
Continue reading How To Use The California Public Records Act To Learn The Names Of LAPD Officers Who Responded To A Call — A Tutorial — These Techniques Are Useful For Other Purposes Also!