Posts Tagged ‘freedom of information act’

Richmond Copwatch is looking for pictures and video of the Richmond Police Department last night during the Occupy Richmond marches. If you have any please email sbhcopwatch@gmail.com

Here is a short video of a Richmond Police Officer refusing to identify himself, and generally giving the person trying to find out that information a hard time. You hear the Copwatcher ask for the cop’s Name and Code Number. Then you also hear that cop refusing to give those pieces of information. You can hear him making comments about how the Copwatcher does not know protocol anymore, and must not know the RPD’s protocol. This is a reference to the fact that after Richmond Copwatch used the Freedom of Information Act to get almost 600 pages of the Richmond Police Department’s protocols, we found out that officers were required to identify themselves by Name and Code Number whenever they were asked. However, since then, the RPD has gone out of its way to alter their protocol. We have heard comments from some officers that say the change in protocol is in direct correlation to Copwatch and Copwatch’s attempts to identify members of RPD. To our best knowledge, Richmond Cops are currently only required to identify themselves by Name, but you should still always ask and get Code Number if you can.

Some of the files recently received through the Freedom of Information Act by Keith McHenry pertain to Richmond Food Not Bombs. We have uploaded these files to archive.org so you can download and read them yourself. Much of the information has been redacted, but there is still enough there to make it clear that there was at least 1 FBI informant participating in Richmond Food Not Bombs during the 2003-2005 time period.

FBI Files on Richmond Food Not Bombs

For Immediate Release:

Richmond Copwatch filed petition in general district court today May 25th, 2011 for mandamus against the Richmond Police Department in regards to the Freedom of Information Act.
Jeremy Hawthorne, a member of the Wingnut Anarchist Collective and Richmond Copwatch made a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) on behalf of Richmond Copwatch originally on January 11th. The request is for the remainder of the protocols and manuals that  RPD has, but which Copwatch did not request with the documents they received in December of 2010. Only individuals, not organizations may make requests under VA FOIA.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act gives  the public body  five days to respond to the FOIA request. If the public body is unable to respond within that five days they are required to notify the petitioner that they are requsting an extension. The extension may be for a maximum seven days.  The public body may continue to extend the time period, but most notify the petitioner and have a legal reason for the extension.

Due to failure of the RPD to respond within those five business days, we enlisted the aid of an attorney from the ACLU. On February 4, the RPD notified our attorney and Mr. Hawthorne of their request of a seven day extension.

According to VA FOIA, the public body may charge for the requested records. They are also allowed to request a deposit of two hundred dollars if they believe the costs of duplication will exceed that. In this case on the last week of March Jeremy Hawthorne made a deposit of two hundred dollars with the Richmond Police Department. Despite this deposit, they continued  to not respond to his calls or e-mails.

In fact, on April 21 when Mr. Hawthorne went to the Police Station to request the records agian, in person, they told him they had no record of his two hundred dollar deposit.  Fortunately, Mr. Hawthorne had requested and received a receipt for his deposit. He was eventually able to prove to them that he had indeed paid his deposit to their department for these records. The excuse given was that the person who took the money from Mr. Hawthorne was not authorized to do so.

To date, Mr. Hawthorne has not received the requested records or any notification from the Richmond Police Department in 34 days. They do not answer or return his phone calls or emails.

As Richmond Copwatch we believe that the failure of the Richmond Police Department to respond to Mr. Hawthorne’s FOIA request in a timely and legal manner constitutes a knowing and willful violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

The Richmond Police Department’s attempt at a suit in January against Mo Karn, also of Richmond Copwatch, on the grounds that they had given the information to a “known and admitted anarchist”, turned into an utter embarassment for the Richmond Police Department. We believe the Richmond Police Department is now refusing to honor FOIA requests made by anarchists or members of Copwatch.
In our opinion this constitutes a violation of VA FOIA and also of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Background:
FOIA law, for reference
http://www.opengovva.org/virginias-foia-the-law

Richmond Copwatch is a non-heirarchical network of groups (more…)

This article was published on our friend’s website- http://www.richmondspark.wordpress.com

One of the main issues of the Monroe Park Occupation (www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com) was the policy of the Richmond Police Department of destroying homeless camps and all of the belongings of homeless people with no notice. This policy has been an ongoing reality for people who are homeless in Richmond. In recent months, many camps have been destroyed by the Richmond police and by people doing court forced “community service” for the 4th precinct. Anyone interested in working on this issue should get in touch with the Wingnut Anarchist Collective. Destroying homeless camps and homeless people’s belongings is nothing short of class war, inhumane treatment, robbery, property destruction, and in many cases, attempted murder.

Here is the article:

ACLU Files FOIA Request Regarding VDOT Policies on Homeless, Litigation a Possibility

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the VA Department of Transportation (VDOT). The ACLU wants information regarding the policies of handling and destroying the possessions of homeless people who live on the land owned by VDOT.

Last month a company contracted by the Virginia Department of Transportation demolished a homeless encampment near Interstate 81 at Exit 315 near Winchester. At least four homeless men were using the property for months when the contracted company destroyed their camp and belongings.

The men lost tents, sleeping bags, clothes, food, medication, and other camping gear. One of the homeless men lost his wallet which contained his Social Security Card and birth certificate. No advance notice about the removal of their possessions was given. (more…)

Today we received an interesting package from the City of Richmond, hand delivered to our door.

The documents within informed us about a court case in the works (“The Chief of Police Bryan Norwood and The City of Richmond v. Mo Karn”), and include an:

“Emergency Motion for Protective Order and to Compel the Return of Tactical Information and to Prevent the Disclosure of Said Information on behalf of Plaintiffs Chief of Police Bryan Norwood and The City of Richmond”

You can see the documents here (they are almost identical):

What it boils down to is they’re trying to sue Mo Karn, saying some of the police documents we received via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) are documents they shouldn’t have sent us, specifically ones including “tactical plans”. They are going to attempt to get an order “(A) compelling the return of certain exempt information, (B) preventing the disclosure of this information to the general public, (C) enjoining the defendant from publicizing this information, and (D) granting such other relief as the Court deems appropriate.”

The first reason stated for this in the Emergency Motion is the most obvious:

“1. Defendant Mo Karn is a known and admitted anarchist. See generally http://anarchymo.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/foia-rocks

It goes on to detail most of the mundanely routine email conversation between Mo and the Angela Harrison (Associate General Counsel, although titled in the case documents as a “Program Manager”) of the RPD, to whom our FOIA request was directed. When she mentioned that certain documents included tactical plans, Mo stated very clearly, “I understand that tactical plans may not be subject to FOIA. However if any of the manuals and orders I have requested include tactical plans I would expect that tactical plans sections to be blacked out, but the non-tactical information surrounding them in the manual to still be included.”

In the official response to the FOIA request, the bit about redacting information goes thusly: “in order to completely and properly respond without negatively impacting public safety and our intense operational responsibilities, the Department is entitled to and elects to utilize seven additional work days to respond”.

Well, despite addressing those concerns and the seven days the RPD had to go over the documents, apparently we got some information they thought we shouldn’t have anyway. The Program Manager’s “production of these documents exceeded the authority granted to her,” and she sent them “without first obtaining permission to do so from Chief Norwood.”

Unfortunately that means not shit to us. If the RPD feels they shouldn’t have sent out these documents, maybe they shouldn’t have done so. The idea that they can sue anybody for having information that they gave us is utterly ridiculous.

That said, the list of documents that the RPD feels you shouldn’t read include the following:

Sadly, we already uploaded ALL of these ostensibly public documents (linked above) prior to learning about their illicit nature. We no longer have the ability to remove them from the internet, or the public domain. We encourage you to look through these documents and more on our Richmond Police Department Documents page.

For our part we’re seeking legal counsel on the issue. If it ever goes to court we promise you’ll hear about it.

Here are links to PDFs of various Manuals, General Orders, and Protocols of the Richmond Police Department. You can check them out for a better understanding of what the police are and are not supposed to be doing. This can help with fully understanding your rights, as well as when engaged in activities such as copwatching. It is important for citizens to know when cops are breaking their own rules so we can hold them accountable.

We are also posting this information as a permanent resource page at the top of our blog.

The Wingnut used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get these documents from the Richmond Police Department. We scanned all 595 pages (at no small cost to our sanity), and are posting them online to save others the time and money (about 82 dollars in this case) required to get the documents. However, if you find this information to be useful, please feel free to make a donation to the Wingnut. We have a paypal button on this blog, and can also accept checks written to Moriah Karn and mailed to 2005 Barton Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23222 or cash donations in person.

The Freedom of Information Act is a policy which is Federal, but also exists in most states and localities. It means that if you can figure out what department to ask for information from, you can get the government to give you information not otherwise available. From inter-office emails, to lab reports, to manuals, or even one’s own FBI files, FOIA is a very useful tool for everyone.

This website has information about the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, and who at the City of Richmond to contact:
http://www.richmondgov.com/PublicUtilities/FOIA.aspx

Depending on the agency you are requesting information from, there will be different fees associated with your FOIA request. (more…)