(TNS) — A coalition of activists has sued the city of Los Angeles alleging officials have failed to comply with a public records request seeking information about a controversial “predictive policing” strategy in use for years.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, seeks details about LAPD’s Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration— or LASER — program.
Operation LASER tells patrol officers where crime is most likely to occur and keeps track of ex-convicts and others they believe are most likely to commit them through technology such as license plate scanners and cellphone trackers. Hailed by LAPD brass as a smart way to reduce violent crime, it uses CIA-created technology while fusing data collection and street-level intelligence with the aid of the super-fast computer platform Palantir.
“You have a department that has a budget over a billion dollars and over 14,000 personnel, yet they can’t manage to comply with these pretty basic state statutes regarding their obligations to be transparent with the public about their programs,” Colleen Flynn, one of two attorneys representing the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition in the case, said Tuesday.
The lawsuit stems from a May 10, 2017, California Public Records Act request the group says never yielded the information it sought. Flynn said Operation Laser has been in use since 2011.
LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said Tuesday the department had no comment.
According to the lawsuit, individuals are identified as Operation LASER targets through “secretive, pre-determined criteria.” They are not notified they have been targeted and there’s no known mechanism to request removal from the system.
What the activists are seeking, in part, is how the program has been implemented so far and the demographics of those who have been targeted, including race, age, ethnicity, gender and national origin, according to Jamie Garcia, an organizer of the Coalition. They also want to know what criteria the department is using to target individuals.
The Coalition is also seeking the names of all databases that the computer platform, Palantir, searches through in the creation of a “chronic offender bulletin,” which is opened up on targeted individuals.
“These people are not actively committing crimes,” Garcia argued. “The intense amount of surveillance they are under in the community could lead to a deadly situation.”
Flynn noted that she represented the Coalition and the National Lawyers Guild in a lawsuit settled last year, which was filed after requests for information about LAPD’s Suspicious Activity Reporting program went unheeded. The city was ultimately forced to turn over “hundreds” of records and ended up having to pay some $30,000 in attorney fees, she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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