Public Records Lawsuit

DEFUND SURVEILLANCE

Public Records Lawsuit

In February 2021, the Defund Surveillance campaign filed Stop LAPD Spying Coalition vs. City of Los Angeles, a public records lawsuit challenging the secrecy that shrouds LAPD’s base budgets.

Each year, LAPD asks the mayor and City Council to increase its budget but refuses to give any itemized accounting of what’s in its “base budget,” which is the previous year’s spending that they’re trying to add to. This secrecy is a big part of how LAPD’s budget keeps growing. Without records accounting for the base budget, the community has little ability to confront LAPD’s spending requests.

Starting in June 2020, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Free Radicals began requesting records accounting for LAPD’s base budget. After our Public Records Act requests were closed and our follow-up communications ignored, we were left no choice but to file this lawsuit.

We know that laws and lawsuits will never make policing acceptable. Nor will “transparency” of police records or budget documents. The only sure solution to police violence is abolition, communities that are strong without policing. Political litigation, collective study, community research, and popular education are strategies to advance our broader work of defunding and abolishing the police.

Police car full of money

Legal Documents

Verified CPRA Petition (February 16, 2021) – This is the document we filed to start the lawsuit. It explains the facts and legal claims, with important details about the budget records we’re seeking and about LAPD’s violations of the California Public Records Act and California constitution.

City’s Answer (March 31, 2021) – This is what the city filed in response. They say “the CPRA does not require an agency to create new records” and also that the records we asked for “are exempt from disclosure pursuant to the deliberative process privilege” and “exempt from disclosure pursuant to the public interest exemption.”

Press Release

Public Records Lawsuit Filed to Expose Billions in LAPD Spending

February 16, 2021

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition filed a lawsuit today against the City of Los Angeles challenging LAPD’s failure to respond to California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests for documents accounting for the LAPD budget.  LAPD spends over $3.1 billion a year, and its 2022 spending proposal – which City Council will hold hearings on in June – would be the City of Los Angeles’s largest ever police budget.  The City has turned away the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s repeated requests for records accounting for LAPD’s full budget.

The lawsuit is part of the Defund Surveillance campaign launched by Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Free Radicals to inform the community about details of LAPD’s budget, which consumes over half the city’s unrestricted funds, diverting vital resources from community needs.  The campaign is advancing a list of demands focused on the outsized harm of LAPD’s spending on surveillance, technology, and community policing.  

“LAPD uses budget secrecy to keep increasing the billions they spend to stalk and kill our people,” said Hamid Khan from Stop LAPD Spying, a grassroots community organization based in the Skid Row community of downtown Los Angeles.  “At a time of historic revenue shortfalls and widespread calls to defund the police, the need to expose LAPD’s budget could not be graver.” 

“LAPD spends millions each year on surveillance technology, and billions more on the officers who use it to control and criminalize communities and individuals,” said Sophie Wang from Free Radicals, an activist collective dedicated to creating a more socially just, equitable, and accountable science.  “When we call for an end to the violence of surveillance, we don’t mean adding millions more in oversight or training.  We mean defunding and abolishing the LAPD!”  Free Radicals and Stop LAPD Spying previously collaborated to help shut down LAPD’s first generation of predictive policing programs.  

This lawsuit follows after the revelation last month of a confidential police memorandum suggesting an LAPD policy of singling out the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s records requests for obstruction and delay.  The Coalition has long used public records to expose harmful LAPD practices, share research, and mobilize community opposition.  Today’s case is the third time the Coalition has sued the City of Los Angeles over LAPD’s violations of CPRA.   Both previous cases helped expose LAPD’s racist surveillance tactics, and one helped dismantle LAPD’s predictive policing program.  Together these cases show a continual pattern of LAPD violating CPRA for requests from political and grassroots groups. 

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition is represented by attorneys Shakeer Rahman, Colleen Flynn, and Matthew Strugar.  “No laws or lawsuit can make policing acceptable,” said Shakeer Rahman. “The only sure solution to police violence is abolition, which means building communities where policing and surveillance are unimaginable.   Litigation and community research are strategies toward that goal.”

Media Contact: Hamid Khan (562-230-4578, stoplapdspying@gmail.com