California Sheriff's Dept. Tells Journalists It Will Cost $350,000 To Process 48 Use Of Force Cases [Updated]

from the middle-finger-made-of-dollar-signs dept

California law enforcement's fight against transparency and accountability continues. Since a new law allowing the public to access police misconduct record went into effect, the following has happened:

It doesn't seem likely the state's courts are going to side with law enforcement agencies and their desire to whitewash their pasts. The legal battles will continue until every avenue of appeal has been exhausted, but until there's a definitive, unified ruling on the issue, agencies will continue to play keepaway with public records.

With their dirty pasts in jeopardy of being exposed, law enforcement agencies are turning to another favorite dirty trick: pricing records requesters out of the market.

Sara Libby of the Voice of San Diego says the San Diego Sheriff's Department wants $246,759.32 to process past use of force records. Comparatively, it's a bargain. There's a $100,000 markup on the request filed by KPBS, which is seeking the same records from the agency.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department estimated it'll cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to supply police misconduct and use of force records in response to a KPBS request. The agency's response is the latest development in a battle between law enforcement agencies and media organizations across the state to obtain records recently made available under a new law that took effect January 1.

[...]

A Monday letter from the Sheriff's Department to KPBS said the $354,524.22 fee will cover the cost to review and redact records from 48 use of force cases. It is still estimating the cost for 28 others, the response said.

This is an insane amount of money to charge for records related to 48 use of force cases. The department claims it will need to obtain special equipment to redact audio and video files, and has decided to pass that entire cost on to KPBS despite the fact the equipment will be used to process records requests for years to come. The Sheriff's Department's justification for this move? The law says it can and doesn't require it to determine whether or not it should.

Unsurprisingly, the law enforcement agency may be wrong about the law.

However, James Chadwick, a partner of the law firm Sheppard Mullin said the court case the agency cites is currently under review by the California Supreme Court.

"So that's actually not currently a citable precedent," Chadwick said. "It's not controlling authority on anything, so their reliance on that single precedent is pretty questionable as well."

Whatever it takes to keep the public from knowing how many bad cops their tax dollars have paid for, I guess. There have been a few agencies in state acting in good faith since the new law went into effect, but the reaction from most has been to further damage their relationships with the public they serve with antagonism, stonewalling, and deliberate obtuseness.

UPDATE: It appears a little public shaming goes a long way:

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore confirmed to KPBS he will not charge to produce newly available records on incidents of use of force or confirmed cases of sexual assault and dishonesty by a deputy. KPBS previously received estimates totaling nearly $400,000 to remove private information from materials for dozens of cases.

Even better, Sheriff Gore appears to realize exactly what message he sent -- intentionally or not -- by demanding a ridiculous amount of money for the processing of these files.

"We looked at the perception that it creates that we’re trying to circumvent the law and make it cost prohibitive — that is not the intention of what we’re doing," Gore said in a phone interview.

The department will absord the costs of the new equipment and hire more people to handle the influx of document requests triggered by the new public records law.

Filed Under: california, fees, foia, san diego, san diego sheriff's department, transparency
Companies: kpbs, voice of san diego


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 1:35pm

    The Truth

    They didn't do the investigation before so the numbers are for overtime to quickly acquit themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 1:39pm

    WaPo reported SCOTUS limit on state-imposed fines, etc.

    I wonder how these inflated service charges might interact with the new SCOTUS ruling.

    Regardless, it seems California's law enforcement is a bit desperate to hide their behaviors. One might think they've been knowingly harboring bad apples and engaging in rot and misconduct.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Thad (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 1:58pm

    Re: WaPo reported SCOTUS limit on state-imposed fines, etc.

    I wonder how these inflated service charges might interact with the new SCOTUS ruling.

    None. The SCOTUS ruling refers to the Eighth Amendment's excessive fines clause. It relates to criminal justice, not records requests.

    $350,000 certainly sounds excessive, but it's not a fine, and it's not covered by the Eighth Amendment.

    That's not to say that what the Sheriff's Department is doing is legal. Just that it's got nothing to do with today's ruling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 2:04pm

    "A Monday letter from the Sheriff's Department to KPBS said the $354,524.22 fee will cover the cost to review and redact records from 48 use of force cases. It is still estimating the cost for 28 others, the response said. "

    I would ask, how much paper is that?? at that price I could gotothe Dump and get a couple tons..Write anything I wanted about it, and then ask the cops if it was all true..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 2:05pm

    one other comment...

    WHO want this job?? Anyone?? So who do you end up hiring??

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: WaPo reported SCOTUS limit on state-imposed fines, etc.

    It's only 8.3 Land Rovers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 3:44pm

    ... Anyone else smell stockyard?

    "We looked at the perception that it creates that we’re trying to circumvent the law and make it cost prohibitive — that is not the intention of what we’re doing," Gore said in a phone interview.

    Oh absolutely, I'm sure it was just a pure coincidence that 48 cases was quoted as requiring just over a third of a million dollars for equipment that was absolutely needed, and that that all magically went away when the public became aware of the demand for ludicrous amounts of money.

    Why, I'm sure after that little miscommunication the sheriff's department will happily eat that cost themselves, which will of course be evident in their budget and spending records, and the third of a million dollar cost won't turn out to have been pulled straight from the backside of whoever mentioned it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 5:17pm

    If the "good guys" are demanding this much cash for their records yet when they want to demonize the dead citizen those records are released in first 10 seconds... one might need to ask why.

    Perhaps we are approaching the point when we stop believing the "only a few bad apples" narrative & admit like other massive "good" bodies (Catholic Church, Baptists, Football Programs, Boy Scouts, the list boggles) protecting their image has undermined their accountability. That it is better to protect someone who violated their sworn duties to keep people believing they are always "good guys" than to admit they are human & they stupidly tried to protect their image at the cost of life or innocence of citizens they are charged with protecting... as long as the offender isn't a cog of the system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Bergman (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 6:26pm

    Subpoenas

    I wonder, would that AG support someone who tried to claim the law authorizing subpoenas doesn't apply to documents older than the subpoena issue date? Or would he throw the book at them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Bergman (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 6:28pm

    Re:

    Even if we do believe the 'a few bad apples' narrative, you preserve the barrel by instantly throwing out any bad apples you find. Because the rest of the 'a few bad apples' saying is 'spoils the barrel'.

    Just looking at the contortions police departments, prosecutors, police unions, arbitrators and judges go through to avoid throwing out any bad apples, you can only draw one conclusion about that apple barrel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Bluehills (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Re: WaPo reported SCOTUS limit on state-imposed fines, etc.

    It does not apply, but it also does not matter. Under California law public entities cannot generally charge for the manpower involved in processing or redacting public records for release. Only the actual copying costs may be charged. I don’t believe 1421 contained any special provision in that regard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Bluehills (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Subpoenas

    The laws authorizing access to records via subpoenas predate most records in the possession of California public entities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Bluehills (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:49pm

    Gore more likely talked to his attorney.

    Public shaming only goes so far. His County Counsel probably told him he couldn’t charge for redacting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Pixelation, 20 Feb 2019 @ 8:03pm

    Talk about a red flag. This just reeks of corruption and rot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Glenn, 21 Feb 2019 @ 4:53am

    I think what's being made clear by these law enforcement agencies and their advocates:

    they're all bad cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2019 @ 11:39am

    The City of Inglewood allowed the Inglewood PD to shred all of its pre-2019 misconduct records.

    Every one of those people should be arrested and thrown into jail for doing such a thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2019 @ 12:23pm

    Ah, my favorite sheriff

    No links, please do your own research.

    Sheriff Gore, one of two active USG LEO agents in the history of the United States to plead the 5th during congressional tesimony.

    Here are some helpful search terms tho:

    Bill Gore Ruby Ridge Bill Gore conceled carry permits

    Oh, and one of his station Captain's is currently suspended (with pay) and under federal investigation for selling FAR MORE firearms per year than allowed by law.

    Yes, I live in SD county. NO, I've NEVER voted for this guy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 21 Feb 2019 @ 1:22pm

    Executing illegal orders

    It's a tricky business being given an illegal order while in an institution, whether a corporation, a state military or a government agency.

    Certainly, they should lose their jobs, and the ones who gave the order might be tried for criminal misconduct, but if the records were shredded buy clerks, they shouldn't be jailed...unless they continued to do so when given the order to stop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Valkor, 21 Feb 2019 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Ah, my favorite sheriff

    The admonition to "do your own research" in the context of a comment thread is inherently hostile, and akin to the sing-song "I know something you don't know" from childhood.

    Since this information strikes you as very relevant to the story at hand, please be polite and link something useful. If it's important to you, please don't invite me to waste my time figuring out what you've already discovered.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Bluehills (profile), 21 Feb 2019 @ 8:43pm

    Re:

    No, they didn’t. Inglewood authorized the destruction of files which could be legally destroyed. Depending on the files that would mean those 3 to 5 years old.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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