The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic this week filed suit against the Los Angeles Police Department for its long time, flagrant violations of 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. 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.
“Access to information about the conduct of government agencies is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state,” said Adrienna Wong, attorney with the ACLU SoCal. “The LAPD’s stonewalling and disregard of legal requests denies the public’s right to know.”
Joining the ACLU SoCal as plaintiffs in the suit are:
• Investigative reporter Ali Winston, who has written about law enforcement and surveillance issues for several outlets including the Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
• Kelly Lytle Hernandez, an associate professor at UCLA’s Department of History, who is one of the nation’s leading historians of race, policing, immigration and incarceration.
• Shawn Nee, a community activist and award-winning photographer.
“LAPD’s intransigence on records concerning surveillance technology are direct matters of concern for the public,” said Winston, who has experienced unwarranted denial and delay of CPRA requests. “The technologies I’ve asked about—Palantir data-mining software, facial recognition for video cameras and powerful cell-site simulators used by the Pentagon and NSA— all have direct impact on Angelenos’ right to privacy that is guaranteed by the state constitution.”
By its disregard of CPRA requests, the LAPD undermines public access to information, which is the central purpose of the act. Its practices also go against the tide of law enforcement agencies across the nation that are offering more transparency to gain community trust.
The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction to compel the department to comply with the CPRA.