May 122011
 

After witnessing an auto accident involving a police officer who seems to have lied about the circumstances, I submitted to Seattle Police Department today:

Dear Public Records Officer:

Pursuant to the Washington State Public Records Act, I request access to and copies of recordings made by equipment in the Seattle Police Department squad car involved in the collision at approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 10, 2011, in the 5300 block of Rainier Avenue South, from five minutes prior to the collision until five minutes after the collision. I understand that the Coban in-car recording system used in the vehicle is equipped with a “pre-event buffer and fail safe feature” that allows for such access. If the recording management software has the option to produce output in either a standard video format (e.g., MPEG2, H.264, etc.) or in a proprietary format which allows increased functionality to the user, I request copies of both. I also request any logs of access to recordings made by that car’s recording system on that day.

I would like to receive these records in electronic format, as attachments to e-mail or burned to CDROM. If that is not feasible, please contact me to discuss alternatives.

I agree to pay reasonable duplication fees for the processing of this request in an amount not to exceed $5. Please notify me prior to your incurring any expenses in excess of that amount.

If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the PRA. I request that any deletions be “blacked out” rather than “whited out”. I will also expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.

Thank you for your assistance.

UPDATE: SPD responded on May 16, denying my request in full:

RE: Public Disclosure Request # P2011-1570

Dear Mr. Phil Mocek,

This letter is in response to your public disclosure request dated May 11, 2011 and received by Seattle Police Department on May 12, 2011 for In Car Video and Video logs for incident number 11-149229. We will not be able to release information to you at this time per Det. Smithers. The file you have requested is part of an active investigation in which non-disclosure is essential to effective law enforcement, RCW 42.56.240(1). Disclosure of this information would jeopardize the criminal investigation.

We invite you to submit your request in 6-8 weeks for these records.

If you feel that this information has been withheld in error, you may file a written appeal with the Chief of Police within ten (10) business days from the date of this letter. Please include your name and address and a copy of this letter together with a brief statement identifying the basis of the appeal. Please mail or deliver your appeal to:

Chief of Police
Seattle Police Department
PO Box 34986
Seattle, WA 98124-4986

This concludes the Seattle Police Department’s response to your request.

If you have any questions, please contact the Public Disclosure Desk at 206-684-5481.

Sincerely,

John Diaz
Chief of Police

Rodger Stephenson
Administrative Specialist II
Public Request Unit

JD:rs

On the same day, I replied:

On Mon, May 16, 2011 at 02:26:29PM -0700, John Diaz wrote:
> The file you have requested is part of an active investigation
> in which non-disclosure is essential to effective law
> enforcement, RCW 42.56.240(1). Disclosure of this information
> would jeopardize the criminal investigation.

I did not request a file. I requested recordings from before and after the incident and logs of access to any recordings made in that vehicle at any time on the same day.

I understand that you may need to redact portions of these records. Please provide the records I requested, redacted as necessary, and please provide segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.

On May 17, SPD responded:

Dear Mr. Phil Mocek,

The in car video is actually part of the file/report, which is currently still under investigation. Also, according to your original request you stated you would like “…access to and copies of the recordings made by equipment in the Seattle Police Department squad car involved in the collision at approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 10, 2011, in the 5300 block of Rainier Avenue South, from five minutes prior to the collision until five minutes after the collision.”.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this case or it’s status you may contact Detective Mark Smithers who’s the lead investigator at 206-684-8931.

I hope this clears up any questions or concerns you may have.

Kindest regards,

Rodger Stephenson #7053
Seattle Police Dept.
Public Request Unit
Admin Spec II
206-684-5454 ext. 9

An hour later, I responded, copying Rodger Stephenson, John Diaz, and Martha Kang, a reporter at KOMO who expressed interest in the investigation:

On Tue, May 17, 2011 at 11:31:06AM -0700, Rodger Stephenson wrote:
> The in car video is actually part of the file/report, which is
> currently still under investigation.

Yesterday, John Diaz wrote about “the file [I] requested”. In my response, I clarified that I did not request the file. I do not dispute Mr. Diaz’ and your assertion that some of the records I requested comprise a portion of some file that SPD possesses.

I reiterate my request, pursuant to the Washington State Public Records Act, for access to and copies of recordings made by equipment in the Seattle Police Department squad car involved in the collision at approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 10, 2011, in the 5300 block of Rainier Avenue South, from five minutes prior to the collision until five minutes after the collision and any logs of access to recordings made by that car’s recording system on that day.

I understand that you may need to redact portions of these records, for reasons including avoidance of compromising an ongoing investigation. If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify each deletion by reference to specific exemptions of the PRA. I request that any deletions from textual data be “blacked out” rather than “whited out”.

Please provide the records I requested, redacted as you believe to be necessary, and please provide segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. The law requires you to either do so or estimate when you will be able to do so within five business days of my request, so I expect such a response by Thursday morning.

Thank you for your continued assistance with this matter. I believe that governmental transparency is essential to our liberty, and I greatly appreciate your work toward achieving such transparency.

UPDATE 2: May 20: SPD continue to deny my request for video, now citing two reasons, but provided some access logs.

This email is in further response to your public disclosure request for a copy of all video associated with the accident that occurred on 5/10/11. In addition to the fact that the video is part of an active investigation, which exempts the video from public disclosure pursuant to RCW 42.56.240(1), essential to effective law enforcement. The video footage is also exempt pursuant to RCW 9.73.090(1)(c), no sound or video recording may be duplicated until final disposition of an litigation, both criminal and civil, which arises from the incidents that were recorded. Attached are copies of the video logs for this incident.

You may file a written appeal with the Chief of Police within ten (10) business days from the date of this letter. Please include your name and address and a copy of this letter together with a brief statement identifying the basis of the appeal. Please mail or deliver your appeal to:

Chief of Police
Seattle Police Department
PO Box 34986
Seattle, WA 98124-4986

This concludes Seattle Police Department’s response to your public disclosure request.

If you have any questions, please contact our public disclosure desk at 206-684-5481.

Thank you,
Sheila

Sheila Friend Gray
Public Request Unit Manager
Seattle Police Department
206-733-9313
Sheila.FriendGray@Seattle.gov

The logs they provided included the following data, which I transcribed to plain text:

Log Time            Event                User   Log
------------------- -------------------- ------ ------------------------------------------------------------------------
2011-05-18 10:35:12 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:33:10 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:32:53 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-18 10:28:01 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-14 12:01:28 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\5465@20110510171842.mpg to D:\videof...
2011-05-14 12:01:27 Upload               5465   (SRVDCVP) Upload from network

2011-05-18 10:35:12 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:33:10 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:32:53 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-18 10:28:01 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-14 12:01:28 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\5465@20110510171842.mpg to D:\videof...
2011-05-14 12:01:27 Upload               5465   (SRVDCVP) Upload from network

2011-05-18 10:19:31 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:18:03 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:17:41 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-16 10:28:05 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-12 17:22:50 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\6856@20110510175506.mpg to D:\videof...
2011-05-12 17:22:50 Upload               6856   (SRVDCVP) Upload from WKSTN EPAT506003(156.74.196.137)(HDD# 00004...

2011-05-18 10:23:57 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:23:21 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:22:57 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-17 10:28:02 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-13 13:37:57 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) DET. M. SMITHERS TCIS|2 COPIES|05132011
2011-05-13 13:34:11 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-13 13:03:30 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\5670@20110510171707.mpg to E:\videof...
2011-05-13 13:03:29 Upload               5670   (SRVDCVP) Upload from WKSTN VIDEO505634(156.74.197.57)(HDD# 00000...

2011-05-18 10:19:31 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:18:01 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:17:35 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-16 10:28:05 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-12 17:22:49 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\6856@20110510173947.mpg to D:\videof...
2011-05-12 17:22:49 Upload               6856   (SRVDCVP) Upload from WKSTN EPAT506003(156.74.196.137)(HDD# 00004...

2011-05-18 10:22:12 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:21:17 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:21:03 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-15 10:28:03 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-11 19:24:54 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\7513@20110510174414.mpg to D:\videof...
2011-05-11 19:24:53 Upload               7513   (SRVDCVP) Upload from network

2011-05-18 10:20:51 Export               6130   (SRVDCVP) D. CROYSDILL PRU|2 COPIES|05182011
2011-05-18 10:20:16 Retain               6130   (SRVDCVP) Retain
2011-05-18 10:20:10 Playback             6130   (SRVDCVP) Playback video
2011-05-14 10:28:05 UnRetain             System (SRVDCVP) Unretain
2011-05-10 19:44:26 Moved Around on Raid System (SRVDCVP) Move from D:\ftpVideos\7517@20110510172145.mpg to D:\videof...
2011-05-10 19:44:25 Upload               7517   (SRVDCVP) Upload from network

On May 23, I responded as follows:

On Fri, May 20, 2011 at 11:16:36AM -0700, Sheila Friend Gray wrote:
> Attached are copies of the video logs for this incident.

Thank you. Please note 1) that you sent a six-page PDF containing five screenshots, the first of which was repeated, 2) I did not request “the video logs for this incident”; in addition to the video you have refused to provide, I requested logs for all recordings made on May 10 by the squad car that was involved in the collision.

Also, please note that I’ve requested video of five minutes prior to and following the collision. It’s my understanding that while the in-car recording system automatically stores a “pre-event buffer” of configurable length prior to a triggering event, it also stores a continuous stream of video — often days’ worth — to its hard drive, regardless of any triggering events.

I understand that your position is that no video used in the investigation of the collision will be made available to the public until some later date.

UPDATE 3: May 26: SPD say they’ll need another week and a half to provide the logs I requested, and they explicitly stated that they are unable to provide any video to any uninvolved party for a period of approximately three years from the time the video was made:

PDR #P2011-1570

Mr. Mocek,

This email is in further response to your request for “copies of all logs for all recordings made on May 19 by the squad car that was involved in the collision.” The Seattle Police Department (SPD) Public Request Unit (PRU) will need additional time to respond to your request. At this time, we anticipate getting a response to you on or about June 6, 2011.

In response to your request for “video of five minutes prior to and following the collision.” Under Washington State Law, SPD cannot release any in-car video to you, at this time. Again, pursuant to RCW 9.73.090(1)(c), SPD cannot release and/or duplicate any sound or in-car video recording until final disposition of any litigation, both criminal and civil, which arises from the incidents that were recorded. In other words, we are unable to release any video to uninvolved parties for a period of approximately 3 years from the time the video was taken.

You may file a written appeal with the Chief of Police within ten (10) business days from the date of this letter. Please include your name and address and a copy of this letter together with a brief statement identifying the basis of the appeal. Please mail or deliver your appeal to:

Chief of Police
Seattle Police Department
PO Box 34986
Seattle, WA 98124-4986

This concludes the Seattle Police Department’s response to your request.

Thank you,
Sheila

Sheila Friend Gray
Public Request Unit Manager
Seattle Police Department
206-733-9313
Sheila.FriendGray@Seattle.gov