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
This post is about a confidential email conversation between Deputy City Attorneys Mike Dundas and Strefan Fauble and CD13 staffer Dan Halden about a CPRA request of mine. If you’d like to read the email without reading my nonsensical rantings about it you can find it here on Archive.Org
If you spend any time at all asking the City of Los Angeles for copies of public records you’ll have realized that compliance with the Public Records Act is not a high priority of theirs. They violate it constantly, in small ways and large, intentionally and out of sheer careless indifference. They violate it because they can afford to pay out any number of settlements and most people won’t sue them. They violate it even though compliance with the CPRA is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of California.
And now, although I’ve long suspected it to be true, I have proof that the City Attorney’s office actually advises them to decide whether to violate it based on whether or not they think the requester will sue them which, as Strefan Fauble so succinctly puts it in a top-secret confidential April 2019 email conversation, “would involve a lot more work.”
But it takes resources to sue them, so effectively this policy favors rich requesters and corporate requesters, even though the Constitution guarantees access to every person, which clearly means equal access. It’s surely no coincidence that rich people and corporations are much, much less likely to be critical of the City. This story begins with a request I sent to Dan Halden on March 12, 2019. I asked Halden for:
Continue reading Confidential Attorney Client Conversation Between Deputy City Attorneys Mike Dundas and Strefan Fauble And CD13 Staffer Dan Halden Reveal That The City Denies Requests As Burdensome Even Though They Know A Judge Wouldn’t Buy Such An Exemption Claim — That They Consider Whether A Requester Will Actually Sue Them When Deciding Whether Or Not To Deny As Burdensome — Which Is Intrinsically A Violation Of The CPRA — And That Mike Dundas Understands The CPRA Far Better Than Strefan Fauble
… Which brings us to that shady criminal conspiracy known as I’ve written a lot about these folks and their cartoonishly wicked white supremacy
but, you may have noted, none of it has been based on public records apart from this very first thing I did in April 2019
So I sent them a few [CPRA] requests … and they made a few desultory stabs at answering me in compliance with the law and then stopped responding at all. But as you’re probably aware, the situation with this Klown Kar Krew has grown ever more urgent, more of public interest than ever before.
What, that is, with their retaliatory firing of long-time employee Hilda Guzman and subsequent unfair labor practices complaint by her union, with repeated community protests at their infernal board meetings, and the unexpected recent petulant rage quit by now thankfully former board chair Juli Quinn. We need to be able to understand what these folks are up to! Which is why their special variety of unhinged intransigence can’t go unanswered, not if we expect government of, by, and for the people to not perish from this earth.
Remember all the way back in December 2019 when I was forced to file yet another lawsuit seeking to enforce the California Public Records Act against yet another white supremacist gentrifying charter, this one known as The Accelerated Schools? Well, it happened. And after fooling around for almost a year, TAS produced a bunch records in October 2020. Exciting, of course, but they were up to their usual no-good nonsense and the production was deficient in a number of essential ways.
Continue reading In October 2020 The Accelerated Schools Produced Five GB of Records In Response To My 2019 Requests — And In Response To The Lawsuit I Filed In December Over Their Refusal To Comply With The Law — The Production Was Huge But Seriously Deficient In A Number Of Ways — And Their Exemption Claims Were The Usual Implausible Nonsense — Through My Lawyer — The Incomparable Robert Skeels — I Begged Them To Be Sensible And Discuss — Pleaded Even — But They Unaccountably Refused — So We’re Going To Trial On March 23 2021 — Unless They Come To Their Damn Senses Before Then — Get A Copy Of The Trial Brief Here!
I can’t remember where I learned that the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst writes briefing notes for each meeting of each City Council committee, but obviously as soon as I heard I started trying to get copies via the California Public Records Act. And so on June 24, 2020 I fired off a request asking for a few years worth.
And you know how the City of LA is. I didn’t get a response at all until September 29, when CLA staffer Karen Kalfayan sent me this ill-considered bit of crapola, claiming that she would have denied my request as “overly broad” but that instead she was denying it as so-called “deliberative process,” a court-created interpretation of the CPRA at §6255(a):
With regard to your request for briefing notes for the period January 1, 2016 through June 24, 2020, please be advised that this Office has made its determination on your request as required by Government Code section 6253(c).
Please note that the request is overly broad, and normally we would request you to clarify your request in order for us to search for specific records. However, please be advised that records may be withheld under Government Code Section 6255 because they would show the officials’ deliberative process. As to these documents, Government Code Section 6255 permits nondisclosure because the public interest served by protecting the official’s decision-making process clearly outweighs the public interest served by the records’ disclosure.
But, you know, I had a thought about this. These briefing notes must be distributed to committee members, otherwise what’s the point? And the Brown Act, not the Public Records Act, contains a really important, really useful bit at §54957.5, also worth quoting:
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Staff Lie All The Time About The Public Records Act — And Also Did You Know That The Chief Legislative Analyst Prepares Briefing Notes For Council Committees? — Two Sets For Each Meeting — One Is For The Chair — The Other For The Members — And CLA Staffer Karen Kalfayan Had The Nerve To Claim These Were Exempt From Production — Even Though The Brown Act States Specifically That They Are Not Exempt And Must Be Released Immediately On Request
There is a lot of interesting stuff in the Los Angeles City Charter! And I didn’t realize it before, but the same is true of the Los Angeles Administrative Code! It turns out that the LAAC includes a local version of the California Public Records Act. This differs here and there from State law, and some of the differences are really interesting.
Let’s take a look at LAAC §12.21. This is the local version of CPRA §6254, which is the main list of exemptions. The infamous §6254(f) is the so-called investigative exemption, which basically allows the cops to refuse to release any records which can properly be described as “investigatory or security files.” And the local LA version, found at LAAC §12.21(f), is roughly the same albeit localized.
With at one exceedingly important exception! But before that, some background! The LAPD Public Disorder Intelligence Division was established by Chief Edward Davis in 1970, apparently as a reaction to the Watts Uprising in 1965. The PDID infiltrated hundreds of progressive political groups and also spied on electeds from the Mayor to the City Council. According to historian Max Felker-Kanter:
The PDID operated as an updated Red Squad gathering “practically all” information on “potential threats” and storing as much information as possible. It was, in other words, a comprehensive surveillance program that significantly expanded the department’s intelligence operations.
Continue reading In 1983 Public Opposition To The LAPD Political Espionage Unit — Public Disorder Intelligence Division — Was Strong Enough That The Police Commission Dissolved It — And Then-CD5 Repster Zev Yaroslavsky — One Of The Politicians Spied On By LAPD — Sponsored An Ordinance Which Excluded PDID Intelligence Files From The Much-Hated Investigative Exemption — Which Means All Of Them Must Be Released On Request! — Unless They’re Exempt For Other Reasons Than Investigative — But Even More Interesting — Maybe One Of The Most Interesting Things About The Los Angeles Administrative Code — Is That Yaroslavsky Specifically Precluded LAPD From Making A Burdensomeness Exemption Claim — Which Says That In 1983 LAPD Was Making Exactly The Same Kinds Of Bogus Exemption Claims They Love So Much Now — But Not About These Spy Records!!
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, known as POST, publishes well over a hundred video training courses for local police forces. I learned recently that POST is subject to the California Public Records Act and a couple weeks ago I sent them a request for all their training videos. There are 124 of these videos, and ultimately POST agreed to send 79 of them.
However, Phil Caporale, the POST staffer who’s handling the request, claimed that the other 45 were exempt from release. His first attempt at an explanation for withholding them was that they “are deemed Law Enforcement sensitive” and that therefore they were exempt from release via the infamous §6255(a) catch-all exemption. Also at first he didn’t tell me how many videos he was withholding or which ones they were.
Now, §6255(a) is by far the most often abused section of the law. It allows agencies to withhold records without a specific authorizing exemption when “on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” But the section is very clear that “the facts of the particular case” must support the decision to withhold. It’s not enough, not at all, for an agency to make something up, like that they “are deemed Law Enforcement sensitive,” as a justification for invoking 6255(a).
After I pressed him a little he informed me that to release these 45 videos would endanger the safety of both the public and of officers. He also listed the 45 videos he was proposing to withhold. The list is transcribed at the end of this post and you can also find it in this PDF of Caporale’s email. But that bit in §6255(a) about the “facts of the particular case” isn’t in there for nothing. It requires agencies to have an explanation for each withheld record that’s based on specific facts about that record.
Continue reading The California Commission On Peace Officer Standards And Training — POST — Publishes 124 Different Police Training Videos — POST Staffer Phil Caporale Refused To Release 45 Of Them In Response To My Request For Public Records — Claiming That To Do So Would Endanger Public And Officer Safety — But He’s Ignoring The Law — Which Requires Him To Balance That Putative Public Interest Against The Public Interest In Releasing These Training Materials — And In A Week Where California Police Have Attacked — Tortured — Beaten — Arrested — Shot — Killed — Peacefully Assembled Protesters — The Public Interest In Seeing How Cops Are Trained In Crowd Management — Crowd Control — And How That Training Compares To Their Actual Violent Behavior — Is So Cosmically High That It’s Basically Insurmountable — Not That This Truth Matters To Caporale — Who Like So Many Antisocial Public Officials Is Just Making Stuff Up To Justify His Predetermined Outcome — Just Mumbling Meaningless Words — Which Is Also Contempt For The Public — Which Also Endangers Our Safety
Here’s another installment in my ongoing series of posts about the City of Los Angeles and the interesting ways in which its various departments violate the California Public Records Act. Today I’m looking once again at Los Angeles City Council District 13, repped by the fecklessly idiotic troll doll Mitch O’Farrell, and some of O’Farrell’s illegal email redaction policies. The story actually begins last March.
At that time I received some emails from CD13 containing conversations between staffers, LAPD officers, and local owners of commercial properties about homelessness. The discussions were filled with dehumanizing stereotypes and calls to starve the homeless, to use pressure-washing and illegal planter placement and other hostile measures to displace them, and so on. All of this not just uncriticized, not just accepted, but actively encouraged and facilitated by City staff and LAPD officers.
I found the whole scene appalling and wrote a number of posts exposing these privilege-addled sociopaths, the main one of which is here but this other one about Kanye West flunky Anthony Kilhoffer is also good. Some of them flipped out and threatened me and apparently others complained to CD13 that I had exposed their sociopathy to the world or that I was mean to them on the internet or whatever. Since then, clearly in response, CD13 has redacted email addresses of basically every correspondent who’s not using a government email address.
Dan Halden, who’s responsible for handling some of my CD13 CPRA requests, has told me that such redactions are legally justified because exposing constituents to personal mockery for advocating genocide against the homeless would create a chilling effect on their willingness to contact their elected officials. Here’s one instance of Halden’s articulation of this novel legal theory:
Continue reading Mitch O’Farrell And The California Public Records Act — Second Part Of A Series On His Outrageous Violations — He Has Instructed His Flunky — Dan Halden — To Redact The Names Of Constituents Who Send Him Insane Rage Rants Against Homeless Human Beings — Advocating Starvation — Forced Relocation — And Similar Genocidal Measures — And The Reason He Thinks He Can Hide Their Identities? — Because — Halden Says — Publicity Would “Chill” Their Willingness To Ask Mitch O’Farrell For “Help” — What He Means Is They Don’t Like Being Exposed And Mocked On The Internet For Their Sociopathy — At O’Farrell’s Bidding Halden Also Redacts The Names Of Actual Public Officials — Like Jittery Little Peruvian-Hating Psychopath Carol Massie — Of The Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance — And Refuses To Explain Why — Although The Real Reason Is Obvious — O’Farrell Hates The Constitution — And He Hates The Law — And He’s Really Got To Go