The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition files a California Public Records Act lawsuit against the LAPD and City of Los Angeles
On February 13, 2018, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition filed a California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department ("LAPD") and the City of Los Angeles. The petition alleges that the LAPD has, by its inaction, refused to provide records about “Operation LASER,” its ominous-sounding "predictive policing" program.
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s petition–like the ACLU petition against the City of Fresno previously discussed on this blog–is an effective piece of public advocacy that centers the importance of the records at issue. The petition also raises an interesting and important issue: how to proceed when an agency has not cited exemptions to the CPRA to explicitly withhold records, but instead denies access to records by utilizing delays and non-responses.
The coalition made its first CPRA request on May 10, 2017, asking for various documents related to the “Los Angeles Strategic Extraction & Restoration” or “LASER” program, a “predictive policing” program. While the CPRA requires an initial response within ten days (§ 6256), the LAPD did not respond until twenty-eight days later, on June 6, 2017, and then only responded to request an additional fourteen days to determine whether it would disclose records. Fourteen days came and went without an additional response. The Coalition sent a reminder on July 17, 2017, and received a response from the LAPD promising the records on July 29, 2017. July 29 came and went like previous deadlines, and the LAPD sent no further response.
The Coalition, having waited more than nine months, filed its petition. The petition makes a powerful case as to why Operation LASER must be subject to public scrutiny, if not rescinded entirely. After pointing out that Operation LASER targets individuals on the basis of secretive “pre-determined” criteria, that the targeted are not notified of their inclusion in the system and have no way to challenge their inclusion in the system, and that the LAPD launched the program in a predominantly people of color neighborhood, the Coalition makes a concise and powerful statement of the purpose of its public records request: “The Coalition seeks public records regarding Operation LASER because they believe predictive policing legitimizes speculative policing that feeds into the larger system of institutional racism and state violence.” Well said.
To follow developments in this case, go to the Los Angeles Superior Court website and search for case number BS172216.