The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recently filed a complaint in D.C. Superior Court demanding the D.C. Police Department comply with established Freedom of Information Act statutes. According to the Partnership for Civil Justice, the department has been stonewalling them on producing the most basic police information.
The complaint states:
“Public disclosure of the operational policies and practices, orders and staff instructions of the police department is essential for policing in a democratic society and to establish accountability….The D.C. FOIA mandates that the MPD specifically make public and make available upon demand its policies, procedures, manuals and staff instructions….Additionally the MPD is required to publish a general index of all such records unless the materials are promptly published and copies offered for sale.”
The complaint also argues that the D.C. Police Department must makes these basic materials available on the Internet as the statute requires. As it stands, the department does post its general orders online. However, they don’t appear to post all of them.
Partnership attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard writes in saying: the “MPD hasn’t actually complied even with putting their General Orders online. As they advise on the top of the page, they have selected just ‘some’ of them (which they did belatedly after our FOIA demands). So what are the General Orders in play that we don’t need to know about
The Partnership writes in the complaint that they had effectively been stonewalled by the police department when it comes to getting some basics:
*copies of all staff manuals and instructions, including general orders and special orders. All Department directives and policy statements.
*An index of all police records required for public viewing.
The complaint goes on to state: “The MPD refused to respond or produce materials in reponse to the original written Freedom of Information Act request or follow-up correspondence. The PCJF even sent with its initial request a set of blank recordable DVDs onto which the requested information, which is required to be made public in electronic format, could be placed.”
The Partnership filed the suit because they just want this basic information. Now the District is going to end up paying tons of money in lawyer fees over a very basic request for manuals. What a waste of money.