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ACLU sues LAPD for public records act violations
By Charlene Muhammad
Published May 3, 2017

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department, saying it has long violated the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

“The LAPD has consistently disregarded the 1968 Act that stipulates an agency must respond to a request for public records within, at most, 24 days,” the stated.

“Instead, the LAPD often refuses to respond to requests by journalists and others for months or even years, and in many cases does not respond at all. In cases where documents are finally released, the agency many times, only partly fulfills the lawful requests,” the ACLU indicated in an April 25th press statement.

Ali Winston (investigative reporter), Kelly Lytle Hernandez (an associate professor at UCLA’s Department of History), and Shawn Nee (a community activist and award-winning photographer) joined the ACLU SoCal as plaintiffs in the suit, filed on April 25.

According to the ACLU, the LAPD has not yet responded to the lawsuit. The complaint details the LAPD’s pattern and practice of failing to comply with the CPRA’s requirements through the experiences of the four plaintiffs.

According to their suit, the plaintiffs have documented nearly a dozen instances in which the LAPD not only failed to provide a determination of any disclosable records within 10 or 24 days of their initial requests, but failed to respond to the requests at all.

“In many cases, this failure to notify requestors of the LAPD’s determinations has stretched on for years and is ongoing. In other instances, the LAPD replied to requests several months after the expiration of its statutory deadlines – only to produce incomplete and unsatisfactory responses,” the document read.

The lawsuit further indicated, for example, that the LAPD’s treatment of three of Winston’s recent requests exemplifies unique non-responsiveness.

Between 2014 and 2015, Winston sent three CPRA requests to the LAPD. The department has yet to respond, the lawsuit read.  “Today, more than two years since Winston initially submitted these requests, the LAPD has not produced any of the requested records.  Nor has the LAPD informed Winston whether it intends to produce these records,” it went on.

Winston has asked about technologies, such as Palantir data-mining software, facial recognition for video cameras, and powerful cell-site simulators used by the Pentagon and NSA.  According to Winston, these devices have direct impact on Angelenos’ right to privacy that is guaranteed by the state constitution.

Hernandez is lead researcher for Million Dollar Hoods, which produces digital maps showing where people arrested by the LAPD live and how much the city spends to incarcerate them, according to the suit.  She filed a CPRA request on March 8, 2016 for information on arrestees from 2010-2016.

After the LAPD requested the statutory 14-day extension, it failed to respond by April 1.  The suit indicates it replied on April 19, with incomplete data.

ACLU SoCal Atty. Adrienna Wong said access to information about the conduct of government agencies is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.  “The LAPD’s stonewalling and disregard of legal requests denies the public’s right to know,” Wong said.

The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction to compel the department to comply with the CPRA.

 

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