Albuquerque Police Dept. 'Complies' With Records Request By Releasing Password-Protected Videos… But Not The Password

from the still-feeling-above-the-law,-thanks-for-asking! dept

If there’s one thing the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) does well — or at least, frequentlyit’s shoot and kill Albuquerque residents. Its officers’ obvious preference for excessive and/or deadly force attracted the notice of the DOJ, which issued a (mostly) scathing review that was tempered somewhat by the DOJ’s appreciation of the inherent risks of the job, as well as all the hard work the city’s officers do when not shooting Albuquerque residents.

On May 3rd of last year, Gail Martin called the APD to help her when her husband, Armand Martin, threatened her and her two children with a gun. This turned into a lengthy standoff which finally ended when APD officers shot Martin as he ran from the house. According to the police, Martin was holding two guns at the time.

The APD released a number of records, including footage captured before and after the shooting, but nothing containing the shooting itself. Local law firm Kennedy Kennedy & Ives, representing Gail Martin for a possible civil rights lawsuit, requested a copy of police recordings containing the actual shooting under New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).

Over a month later, the APD responded. Sort of.

The Kennedy Kennedy & Ives Law Practice in the lawsuit said the department in mid-August released six CDs containing records on the May 3 shooting death of Armand Martin, a 50-year-old Air Force veteran, in response to the firm’s records request. But three of the CDs were password protected.

Now, this could have been a simple oversight, but if so, the problem would be solved already. Instead, it looks as though the APD is looking to keep the law firm from viewing the videos it requested.

The firm has tried to get the password from APD records, evidence and violent crimes personnel to no avail, according to the complaint…

Now the APD’s being sued. The firm is seeking not only access to the password-protected videos, but also damages and legal fees. According to the firm, access to these videos is crucial to determining whether or not Gail Martin has a legitimate civil rights case. Without them, the firm is no better positioned to make this call than the general public, which has only seen the lead-in and aftermath of the shooting.

This isn’t the APD’s only legal battle related to its IPRA non-compliance. Late last year, KRQE of Albuquerque sued it for “serial violations” of the law. That’s in addition to the one it filed over a 2012 incident, in which the PD stalled on its response to a journalist’s public records request before releasing the requested footage at a press conference, basically stripping the reporter of her potential “scoop.”

It’s common knowledge that law enforcement agencies are less than helpful when it comes to releasing documentation of alleged wrongdoing. It’s the one part they can’t completely seal off when circling the wagons. This leads to weeks, months… even years of obfuscation. And this often leads to lawsuits, paid for by the same public it doesn’t want to hold it accountable.

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Comments on “Albuquerque Police Dept. 'Complies' With Records Request By Releasing Password-Protected Videos… But Not The Password”

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47 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Now that brings up an interesting question. Would the police have any legal grounds to stand on if the videos were hacked, and the passwords found out that way?

I wouldn’t think so, but on the other hand, they intentionally sent over files that could not be used, so it’s pretty clear they don’t want those videos seen, so charges against whoever bypassed the passwords would not be unthinkable.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Is it legal?

My guess for the question “is it legal for the defense team to crack the password?” would be no, it isn’t. They would be bypassing a digital lock after all.

Having said that though, I think it would be legal for them to post copy of the disks online. Then when it happens to get cracked… oh well, they didn’t do it.

Brig C. McCoy (profile) says:

Re: Crowdsource it

The problem with this is that the law firm would not be able to use any such videos in any legal actions. It would be trivial for the APD to say that any resulting video was ‘hacked’ or ‘manufactured’ and doesn’t really show what happened.

The law firm could hire their own expert to recover the videos, but it would have to be someone who could be vetted on the stand and ‘prove’ how he recovered the video.

The law firm’s best option is probably to go to court demanding the passwords and/or an unencrypted copy of the relevant videos. As part of that I suspect they would encourage the court to provide a timely penalty for non-compliance on the part of the APD.

…brig

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Crowdsource it

The problem with this is that the law firm would not be able to use any such videos in any legal actions. It would be trivial for the APD to say that any resulting video was ‘hacked’ or ‘manufactured’ and doesn’t really show what happened.

Nonsense. It’s not at all difficult for anyone with even minimal competence to demonstrate that the unencrypted version derives precisely from the encrypted version via the decryption process.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Crowdsource it

It’s not at all difficult for anyone with even minimal competence to demonstrate that the unencrypted version derives precisely from the encrypted version via the decryption process.

IANAL but it seems to me this would present custody of evidence issues if the video were cracked by some random netizen from who knows where and then used in a trial. Regardless of what an expert says about the final video.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Crowdsource it

Nonsense. It’s not at all difficult for anyone with even minimal competence to demonstrate that the unencrypted version derives precisely from the encrypted version via the decryption process.

Even better would be if the person who finds the password by cracking it, just publicly post the password. Then the law firm can decrypt the files sent to them by the APD. Problem solved.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Crowdsource it

Crowdsource it all you like. That will not likely get through the encryption.

That depends on how smart the ABQ police are. If they didn’t pick a very strong password, several thousand PCs could definitely brute force guess it in a reasonable amount of time. If they picked something really long and/or really random, it would not be feasible, but my sense is most people don’t do that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

(and I question how hard police or any government employees work. They would be working over twice as hard for the same pay in the private sector, not to mention all the risks they would be up against if they owned their own business. The risk of investing, the risk of not investing, etc… No, they got a nice easy risk free job that the taxpayer is paying for. and to the extent they really do work hard that’s what taxpayers work hard to pay them to do).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

and I can go on with story after story of how lazy and incompetent government is just in my own city alone not to mention adjacent cities. On this one street there are maybe over five street lights that have been out for maybe over a year now and no one fixed it. The city put those rubber band like markers around a bunch of them almost a year ago (so they’re aware that these lights are out), more lights have one out since then, and to this date they haven’t been fixed. Like I said I can go on and on and on. These guys don’t do anything, the only thing they’re good at is taking your money and pocketing it. They’re worse than useless and government has been nothing but a burden on society, especially if you consider all the political corruption (ie: copy protection laws and insane retroactive extensions, etc…).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The ABQPD is apparently staffed by serial killers. I suspect that a full psychiatric evaluation of their personnel by independent third parties would reveal any number of sociopaths who’ve become police officers not out of a sense of duty, but because it provides the perfect cover for indulging their need to repeatedly kill.

And when they’re not killing, they’re engaged in beatings, torture, rape, and false arrest. These are sick, evil people who have gained the power to act with impunity — and shame on the US Justice Department for not shutting them down and aggressively prosecuting them.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'd hack them privately

Make a copy – crack the password, then view the video – all privately. If the video doesn’t show anything, then you continue with the low-intensity press releases about police stonewalling, our client will get her day in court, etc.., but you keep the work to a minimum, because you know that ultimately you don’t have a case.

If the video is damning, though, you start hammering the courts and APD over this, up to the borderline of harrassment. Who cares if your billable hours skyrocket, because the minute they give you the password, you have your case, and you’ll get every penny back.

Bobberino Litt says:

I’m not a cryptographer, but I am an optimist: I believe that if our businesses and academics put their mind to it, they will find a solution that does not compromise the integrity of encryption technology but that enables both encryption to protect privacy and decryption under lawful authority to protect the public interest.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And my children used to believe in the tooth fairy.

Here’s the problem: any such solution boils down the police having a special key. Even if the scheme used is practically uncrackable (which is totally doable right now), that doesn’t help much. All it takes is one person to leak or steal the key and then literally anybody will be able to decrypt everything.

In other words, any such scheme provides a single point of failure that is utterly catastrophic. Which means that such a scheme can never be considered secure.

Anonymous Coward says:

What I never understand about these police cases is

Where is the civilian oversight?

No police dept operates in a vacuum – at the very least they get their funding from a town/county/state that has elected officials who are in theory responsible to the public.

Why are the elected officials not doing anything and not being held accountable for the behavior of their employees (e.g. the police)? If the police is not cooperative with elected officials, why continue to fund them at all?

It seems to me that it’s rather easy to blame the police & their superiors, but someone is paying the bills and that someone has the ability to set policies. In extremis, CF. Regan & the air traffic controllers – fire them all, ask the national guard to provide security until a new force can be hired.

Or have the civilian overseers of the police become to scared to hold the police accountable for their actions? If so, then that is the root of the problem and should be more cause for alarm that any police mis-behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

“My guess for the question “is it legal for the defense team to crack the password?” would be no, it isn’t. They would be bypassing a digital lock after all.”

If the material was considered copyrighted (perhaps even if unregistered) then consider 17 U.S. Code § 1201 – Circumvention of copyright protection systems:


(a) Violations Regarding Circumvention of Technological Measures.—
(1)
(A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

While making the claim that government documents are copyrighted might seem a bit farfetched, let’s not forget that these kind of ridiculous copyright claims have been successfully pulled off in the past, such as the efforts to plug the recent leaking of private nude photographs in the so-called Fappening.

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