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Demand disclosure about SCPD informant use and intelligence operations for public debate
Since the 9/11 attacks Americans have experienced a quickening, relentless erosion of our privacy rights. During this period an extensive, redundant and lawless national security state has been increasingly spying on its own citizens and on noncriminal organizations. Our internet surfing, our emails, our tweets, our telephone calls, and our geospatial information among other items are all subject to surveillance and scrutiny by the national security state. Moreover, as evidenced by the New York Police Department's surveillance of muslims and Occupy Wall Street activists without any suspicion of criminal conduct, local police departments participate in this kind of surveillance too. Local police departments essentially duplicating the excesses of the national security apparatus coincides with partnerships between the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies in fusion centers around the country.
I would like to explain why I submitted the public records request above in addition to others preceding it, and why I intend to continue pursuing the information I seek.
To my understanding, the issue of police surveillance came to the attention of the Santa Cruz community when the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) spied on organizers of the 2005 Do It Yourself (DIY) New Year's Eve Parade. According to articles published on Santa Cruz Indymedia soon after the parade, the SCPD infiltrated the the DIY Parade group and performed undercover surveillance of two meetings of the DIY Parade organizers. A campaign called "Just Us" was organized in response to the infiltration and spying. The ACLU filed a public records request at the behest of Santa Cruz activist Wes Modes revealing the surveillance, to quote commentator–journalist Robert Norse, that "it explained in detail how city officials were subverting proposed meaningful restraints on First Amendment violations."
The timeline is not all clear to me, but there were: several heated city council meetings where the SCPD intelligence operations against the DIY Parade was discussed; a dubious SCPD investigation clearing the perpetrators yet performed by the perpetrators themselves — then SCPD Deputy Chief Kevin Vogel and then Investigations Section Commander Rudy Escalante; and finally Santa Cruz's toothless independent police auditor Robert Aaronson's conclusion that the investigation performed by Vogel and Escalante was "incomplete and flawed".
It is unknown to me whether the City Council and then City Manager Richard Wilson took any meaningful actions to prevent a repeat of this illegal intrusion on the First Amendment Rights of citizens participating in a noncriminal organization. It is unknown whether the SCPD has conducted similar intelligence operations since then, for example on the Occupy Santa Cruz movement, or whether the SCPD's use of secret informants is fiscally sound, prudent and does not increase crime in our community.
Given the national climate of fear caused by increasing surveillance of civilians who are not criminals by the federal government, and then by local police departments in accord with the federal government, I believe the time is ripe to gather information for a local public discussion about: the use of secret informants in our community; how much money Santa Cruz spends on these informants; determining whether these informants contribute to more crime in our community; and what kinds of intelligence operations the SCPD is performing to determine whether they have returned to their "wicked ways" by spying on innocent civilians not involved in any criminal activity (potentially to stifle their First Amendment rights).
I welcome public support and a robust public debate to force the City Council to release information about the SCPD's use of secret informants and intelligence operations which would not lead to revealing the identity of any secret informants or intelligence operatives — the public has the right to access this information so that we can scrutinize these programs.
I urge readers to flood the City Council with emails demanding that my public records request be fulfilled. Furthermore, please urge the City Council to take part in a public debate about the issues raised by the dissemination of the released information.
From: Jacqueline Drechsler
Subject: RE: SCPD Policy Manual has already been provided to another CPRA requester
Date: January 8, 2013 7:05:18 AM PST
To: John Colby
Cc: 'Caio Arellano' (CArellano [at] abc-law.com) , Jacqueline Drechsler
SCPD reviewed previous responses to PRA requests for its policy manual and determined that it has in fact been released. I apologize for the oversight. Please see attached policies.
SCPD Records Supervisor
jdrechsler [at] cityofsantacruz.com
From: John E. Colby [mailto:colby [at] docktorcat.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2013 7:53 PM
To: Jacqueline Drechsler
Cc: Trisha Husome; Hilary Bryant; City Council; John Barisone; grandjury [at] scgrandjury.org
Subject: SCPD Policy Manual has already been provided to another CPRA requester
January 02, 2012
Jacqui Drechsler, Records Supervisor
Santa Cruz Police Department
155 Center Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
via email to: Jdrechsler [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: THusome [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: hbryant [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: JBarisone [at] abc-law.com
cc: grandjury [at] scgrandjury.org
Re: SCPD Policy Manual has already been provided to another CPRA requester
Dear Ms. Drechsler:
The Santa Cruz Police Department's (SCPD's) Policy Manual, which you denied me access to in the email below, has already been provided to local activist Robert Norse in response to his California Public Records Act (CPRA) request. Records provided to one requester cannot then be denied to another requester.
Please provide me an (electronic copy) of the Santa Cruz Police Department's Policy Manual as required by law.
Thank you for your assistance in protecting Santa Cruz's citizenry potentially affected by the (mis)use of SCPD informants as well as furthering the aims of transparency and open government.
John E. Colby, Ph.D.
email: colby [at] docktorcat.com
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Begin forwarded message:
From: Jacqueline Drechsler
Date: January 2, 2013 3:21:10 PM PST
To: "John E. Colby"
Cc: "'Caio Arellano' (CArellano [at] abc-law.com)" , Jacqueline Drechsler
Subject: RE: CPRA request for budgets and policies for SCPD use of informants
Attached are the SCPD’s budget documents from 2011 as you requested.
As for records of SCPD policy on the use of informants, I have identified one policy contained the Police Department’s Policy Manual that is responsive to your request; however, the policy is exempt from disclosure as a record of security procedures under Gov Code 6254(f). Accordingly, the SCPD will not be releasing that policy.
SCPD Records Supervisor
Jdrechsler [at] cityofsantacruz.com