L.A.P.D. Sued for Public Records

The ACLU and other plaintiffs cite ‘systemic violation’ of a state law requiring timely disclosures.

The American Civil Liberties Union has joined with a journalist, a college professor and an activist to sue the Los Angeles Police Department over what they describe as a “systemic violation” of California’s public records law.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, accused the LAPD of failing to comply with the California Public Records Act by not responding to requests within the time frame mandated by the law or by ignoring inquiries altogether.

The civil complaint documents nearly a dozen examples of such requests, including some that were allegedly made years ago and have yet to be answered.

“More and more, police departments throughout the United States acknowledge the value of transparency — to increase public trust, promote better law enforcement, and facilitate effective oversight,” the lawsuit stated. “The LAPD’s pattern and practice of violating the [state’s records act] and ignoring requests for public information is not only unlawful, but also out of step.”

The suit asks the court to compel the LAPD to follow the law and order the department to track — and report publicly — how it responds to public records inquiries for at least three years.

An LAPD spokesman said the department had no immediate comment Tuesday morning.

Adrienna Wong, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said public records allow residents to evaluate how their law enforcement agencies are performing and look for ways to improve them, and can help improve community trust in police.

“All of that information is really relevant to this public discussion and has real concrete impacts,” she said.

Though commonly used by journalists and advocacy groups such as the ACLU, public information can be requested by anyone under the California Public Records Act.

Once an agency receives a request filed under the Public Records Act, it must respond within 10 days, saying whether it will provide that information. The law allows agencies to make some exceptions if there are “unusual circumstances,” giving them an additional 14 days, at most, to respond.

If an agency determines the information can be released, the law requires it to provide an estimated date and time when that will happen. Once an agency decides records are public, the law states, it must release them “promptly.”

The ACLU filed the lawsuit with three other people: Ali Winston, a journalist whose stories have been published by the Center for Investigative Reporting; Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a UCLA professor known for her work on race, policing and incarceration; and Shawn Nee, a community activist and photographer based in L.A.

The lawsuit cataloged records inquiries made by Winston, Hernandez or Nee that the LAPD failed to respond to by the 10-day or 24day deadline.

Such was the case in early 2014, the lawsuit said, when Winston requested records from the LAPD about facial recognition cameras as well as software the department used to target potential criminals. Three years later, Winston alleged, the department still hasn’t responded.

Times reporters have also experienced lengthy delays after requesting records from the LAPD.

Recently, the LAPD’s Discovery Section — which handles such requests — has sent automatic replies that say the processing time for requests is six to eight weeks “due to limited staffing.”

The ACLU filed its own inquiry in November, asking for information about the oldest records requests the LAPD had yet to fulfill and the department’s policies for handling such requests. On the same day, the lawsuit stated, the LAPD responded via email, confirming only that it had received the inquiry.

As of Wednesday, the lawsuit said, the ACLU had heard nothing more.

A copy of the Complaint is here.

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Flipping Off Officer D.

From the overlooked, unexplored and unreported archives of the Albuquerque Police Oversight Agency, this remarkable case appears.

This complaint and report, in which a driver finds fault with the driving of an APD officer and shows his displeasure, not once but multiple times with his middle finger, is astonishing first just because it happened, but then because no one seems to have noticed or recognized the significance of what had happened or reported it to the public.

Here then — almost too strange to be true — is the story of the April 23, 2012, encounter between an Albuquerque driver and Officer D. first as described in the complaint to Albuquerque’s police oversight agency:

CPOA-Dear-Related-Driver-Complaint

According to the investigation report, Mr. Driver lives in Portland, Oregon, and Albuquerque. His name, Will B. Driver, appears especially designed to advance complaints of poor driving.

The agency’s April, 2013, report charged and investigated Officer D. for not driving in a careful and prudent manner, making an improper stop and arrest, acting officiously or permitting personal feelings to influence decisions, being antagonistic and unprofessional and not recording the incident.

Only the charges of reckless driving and failing to record were sustained.

CPC-072-12-Driver-Findings-Letter

According to the Police Oversight Agency’s letter to Driver,

“A belt tape or video from a lapel camera would have been extremely helpful in proving or disproving the allegations made by the complainant.  Officer D. did not ensure that the his (sic) belt tape or video tape recorder was working before the beginning of his shift. . . Chief Schultz agrees with these findings. The Complaint and these findings are made part of the officer’s permanent record. The Police Oversight Commission agrees with this finding.”

The incident happened on April 23, 2012, just five years ago.

Of course, Officer D. is Jeremy Dear, who shot and killed Mary Hawkes and was fired from his City of Albuquerque employment for repeatedly not turning on his recording equipment. The City appealed that ruling and the appeal was remanded back to the City Personnel Board.

Although the Personnel Board decided that termination was too severe for the failures to record and ordered Dear returned to work, the City has refused to return Dear to work pending the outcome of its appeal. The case against Dear for shooting Mary Hawkes is also reportedly under investigation by federal authorities.

Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Board has repeatedly scheduled, re-scheduled, and then delayed or cancelled its mandatory review of the officer-involved shooting case against Dear.

It does not appear that this complaint — or most of the other citizen complaints against Jeremy Dear that were brought before Albuquerque’s civilian oversight boards in the years prior to his shooting of Mary Hawkes — have ever been publicly disclosed, discussed, or reported.

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CPOA to Investigate Driving Complaints

On February 10, 2013, a police van driven by Sgt. Adam Casaus crashed into Ashley Browder and her younger sister, Lindsay Browder, at the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Eagle ranch NW. Twenty-one year-old Ashley was killed and her sister was injured.  The police vehicle was driving at a high speed.

A few weeks ago the City announced the settlement of the case brought by the Browder family, with the family receiving an $8.5 million settlement in the case.

As part of the settlement the City agreed to provide additional driver training and will work toward implementing other safety provisions and City police cars will bear bumper stickers asking people to report careless or dangerous drivers to 311 .

Ed Harness, Director of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Agency and Board. stated that the Oversight Board would be getting even more complaints,due to implementation of the plan, to direct all complaints about vehicle accidents to the Oversight Agency.

That, according to an obviously unhappy Harness, would “inundate” the Agency with vehicle accident complaints.

The Police Oversight Board members — whose work was intended to be an integral part of the police reform effort in Albuquerque — should not be surprised by the Chief’s new plan to keep them busy overseeing APD’s motor vehicle accidents and the drivers who caused them.

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CPOB Meeting: April 13, 2017

The meeting on April 13, 2017, of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Board began with a presentation critical of with police and policy reform and the oversight process by Jim Larson. There was also a lengthy discussion about CIRT, or use-of-force cases that are now scheduled to be reviewed by both the CPOB and APD’s Force Review Board.

After another unexplained “Executive Session” and “lunch” the Board returned and heard Sue Brown interject a comment about Dr. Ginger’s Fifth Independent Monitor Report, which is being read by the Oversight Board members who have been ordered not to speak about it.


And Board Chairwoman Joanne Fine described meetings she has attended and announced that there would be a meeting with the parties — APD, APOA, DOJ, and Dr. Ginger — on April 20. She said she was hopeful that the meeting would advance a collaborative effort involving the Police Oversight Board.

But what might be the most significant disclosure came at the very end of the meeting.

In response to Dr. Ring’s question about an increase in the complaint rates, Harness stated that the Oversight Board would be getting even more complaints, due to implementation of a plan resulting from the settlement of the case by the Browder family against former-officer Adam Casaus. The City agreed to put bumper stickers on all police vehicles and to direct all complaints about vehicle accidents to the Oversight Agency.

That, according to Harness, would “inundate” the already seriously backlogged Oversight Board with vehicle accident complaints.

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Monitor’s Report “Not Public”

“We’re Not Allowed to Talk About it Now”

The draft copies of the consent monitor’s report, scheduled for presentation in the federal district court on May 10, 2017, have been distributed, but CPOB members and others have been told it’s secret, and they aren’t “allowed to talk about it” until May 2, 2017, when the Monitor Team’s Report is scheduled to be made “public.”

The Police Oversight Board members discussed an April 20 meeting “with the parties” and said they look forward to sharing their views with the public “after May 2nd.”  Dr. Sue Brown, head of the oversight group’s Policy and Practice Subcommittee, asked the other Board members to write her with their comments on the Report, but she quickly added that she understood they weren’t allowed to talk about the Report in public.

The Director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, Edward Harness, has apparently already submitted his comments on behalf of the Board to the Monitor’s Team, but those also have not been disclosed to the public.

Harness very recently denied an IPRA request for inspection of the Monitor’s draft report, citing a paragraph in the Settlement Agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque that states that such reports and comments on them are not subject to the State Inspection of Public Records Act.

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Federal Court Rules on City Labor Issues

Federal Judge mediates City-APOA disputes

It gets confusing when a police union negotiates its union contract in the middle of a federal lawsuit over unconstitutional policing.  But that’s what’s happening in Albuquerque, and so far that’s been okay with Robert Brack, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the DOJ’s pattern-or-practice excessive force case against the City.

According to the Union, applying the new disciplinary standards retroactively would result in officers being punished now for things that failed to warrant punishment in the past.

So when City Attorney Jessica Hernandez and Police Union lawyer Fred Mowrer informed Judge Brack that they needed his help in working out a problem over the City’s promotional policy, the Judge agreed to set a briefing schedule and rule on their concerns.

The federal Judge was apparently unaware, however, that first, he was overriding the City’s labor relations system. Second, he was effectively ordering the City to disregard the extreme past misconduct of one particular officer, Brett Lampiris-Tremba, the City’s poster-child for excessive force killings, and consider him for promotion to Sergeant.

Thus, in a highly unusual set of motions, the City and its Police Union lawyer are “working out” some of their labor issues and essentially negotiating their contract disputes in the midst of the DOJ’s case on excessive force and systemic problems with the DOJ lawyers looking on and the federal judge acting as the final arbiter.

Although the issue appears to be promotional policy, the broader and far more important concern is whether the federal court should conduct negotiations and ultimately decide issues that are matters of City policy. And even beyond that is the question of how much of the party’s and the court’s policy revision process is properly a public process and whether and when public participation should be or should have been invited.


The Police Union raised the promotional issues on August 25, 2016 by giving “Notice of Objection to APD Promotional Policy…” The City filed its response a month later.

The Court ruled, issuing its November 30, 2016, Opinion.

D-238-MOO-Promotion-Policy

The Court ordered the parties (i.e., the City and APOA) to clarify the definitions it was using for its promotional policy and declared the policy invalid as a violation of due process to the extent it allowed for officer misconduct before the date of the Settlement Agreement to be used for disqualification from the promotional lists.

The Court’s ruling only led to more dispute and on March 16, 2017, an Assistant City Attorney filed the City’s “Reply in Support of the Motion for Clarification of the Finding on Retroactivity.”

Among the questions that are still unanswered are whether the federal judge is knowingly granting immunity to APD officers for their prior bad conduct before entry of the Settlement Agreement. The Court held that refusing to allow promotion of killer-cops would violate their due process due to it being retroactive application of a new rule.

The City’s Reply to its Motion for Clarification was filed on the same day the Police Oversight Board was holding its March meeting and discussing how they could “get a seat” at the policy table:

According to City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, the City and the Union have been submitting their promotional policy arguments to the Monitor, whose ruling can be appealed to the judge. The federal court’s final “clarification” of the APD promotional policy is now due by the time the case goes before the Judge again on May 8.

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