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.