Over on L.A. Observed is a compelling post about LAPD Chief William Bratton being none to pleased with Daily News columnist Mariel Garza’s beef at the difficulty she says some of her CSUN journalism students have met in attempting to get police report information from certain divisions:
“The students who chose to go to LAPD stations – which included Devonshire, Mission and West Los Angeles – had, every one, frustrating experiences. None was given access to the public record requested; some were even told they didn’t have a right to it. Worse though, was that in most of the cases, my students reported unprovoked hostility by the desk officers to their simple, and righteous, requests.”
Bratton, seemingly not averse to a diversion away from all the videos-come-lately showcasing how some of his officers have been broadly interpreting the department’s use-of-force guidelines, fires back with a bit of a defensive neener-neener on the LAPD blog that his people can’t help it if the persons making the requests don’t know their asses from their elbows — or in this case the Federal Freedom of Information Act from the state and local California Public Records Act:
“For example, a management analyst who works in the Devonshire Area Crime Analysis Detail spent a great deal of time trying to help five of Garza’s California State University Northridge students. They asked for specific crime information under the “Freedom of Information Act,” not the “California Public Records Act (CPRA).” There is a difference; the Freedom of Information Act pertains to requests for federal records, and the CPRA deals with requests for information from state and local agencies. According to the analyst, the students insisted they be given crime information under the Freedom of Information Act. “
Certainly it’s not an unreasonable expectation that journalists, student or professional, be prepared, and no it is not the LAPD’s resposibility to school them in the error of their ways. But come on chief… quoting the difference between the two acts doesn’t do much to dispell visions of some sort of entrenched stonewalling taking place along these lines:
J-Student: Hello, I’d like access to specific crime information available to me under the Freedom of Information Act.
LAPD Management Analyst: You have no right to that information under the Freedom of Information Act.
LAPD: One more “but” and you have the right to remain silent.
What would have been cool is this (I can dream can’t I?):
LAPD: Hmmm… by chance, do you mean the California Public Records Act?
Student: Yeah, that’s it!
LAPD: Well swell then!
A couple paragraphs deeper Bratton even adopts a surely-you-jest stance about just how prompt his personnel need to be in providing that information:
“Garza’s column also did not explain that the CPRA requires that “access be immediate and allowed at all times.” However, “staff need not disrupt operations to allow immediate access, but a decision whether to grant access must be prompt.” One surely cannot expect a police division in the Valley that on average responds to over 700 calls for service in a week, handles over 300 crime and arrest reports in a week to drop everything when a student walks in and wants crime information and wants it now. “
Some people love it when the chief goes “Pfffft!” Me, not so much and doing so by finding a technicality to righteously hang Garza’s students is narrow and disappointing, But even if I disagree with the tone and the delivery I do appreciate the dialogue Bratton’s bringing to the community with his communiques and the department blog.