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San Jose Police Apologize For Hiding Drone Program, Halts Until Further Review 59

Posted by timothy
from the no-department dept.
v3rgEz (125380) writes As part of MuckRock's Drone Census, the San Jose Police twice denied having a drone in public records requests — until the same investigation turned up not only a signed bid for a drone but also a federal grant giving them money for it. Now, almost a full year after first denying they had a drone, the department has come clean and apologized for hiding the program, promising more transparency and to pursue federal approval for the program, which the police department had, internally, claimed immunity from previously.
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San Jose Police Apologize For Hiding Drone Program, Halts Until Further Review

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  • Not good enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:26PM (#47618015)

    People should be going to prison for such deceit. We don't hold our officials accountable.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why do these people lie to start with? It's their default. It's almost as if they thought we, the citizens and taxpayers, are the enemy.

      • Re:Not good enough (Score:5, Insightful)

        by houstonbofh (602064) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:43PM (#47618465)

        Why do these people lie to start with? It's their default. It's almost as if they thought we, the citizens and taxpayers, are the enemy.

        When there are absolutely no consequences, why not? If there were real consequences for this carp, it would stop. (Something other than a pension and a book deal.)

    • Re:Not good enough (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:15PM (#47618313)

      People should be going to prison for such deceit. We don't hold our officials accountable.

      This is not the first time that SJPD has been caught doing things like this. They were caught using Stingrays [aclu.org] to monitor cellphones. As with the drones, the Stingrays were paid for with federal money, bypassing local control and oversight.

      Just saying "sorry" should not be enough, especially after repeated occurrences of the same deceitful behavior.

       

    • Re:Not good enough (Score:5, Informative)

      by Frobnicator (565869) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:32PM (#47618389) Journal

      People should be going to prison for such deceit. We don't hold our officials accountable.

      The people who broke the law are not elected officials, they are employees. It is very difficult to hold those people accountable.

      Lying in an FOIA request is potentially a federal crime. But 5 USC 552 provides a very long list of exemptions from the law, and it is federal prosecutors that need to decide to prosecute.

      So the first thing you'd need to do is convince the federal prosecutors to go after the problem, which is very unlikely since they're part of the same Good-Ol'-Boys Network. Then you need to break through the qualified immunity enjoyed by all government workers and government agencies. Once the federal prosecutors fight through the process of appeals to gain permission to sue, the next step is to prove intent since that's what the law requires. The police can easily slip out of it through the gigantic loopholes [cornell.edu] like saying it might have an impact on current or future police investigations, or claiming it was one of the various legal oversights.

      So in summary, they'd need to:
      1. Anger a federal prosecutor enough to interest them
      2. Convince their boss who controls the money (usually an elected person) to sue another branch of government (breaching the Good Ole' Boy's Club)
      3. Fight through the courts, usually all the way to the state's supreme court, that qualified immunity doesn't apply
      4. Convince the court that the individual should be personally liable, otherwise it is just a budgetary transfer from department to department
      5. Prove it was either malicious or that the negligence was at criminal levels, otherwise it doesn't trigger any penalties
      6. Reasonably counter all the objections that the person broke the law, knew or should have known they broke the law, and didn't fit the long list of exemptions
      7. Get a conviction from a jury, since this is criminal law. Or just pressure the person into submission with a plea deal, which is the typical response once you hit #5 above.

      Yeah, that will happen. </sarcasm>

      These are not people you can vote out of office. You might be able to find a way to vote out a city mayor; in some places people like the police chief are elected rather than hired, but otherwise they're just regular government employees who enjoy things like tenure, golden handcuffs, and all kinds of legal immunities.

      • Or pass local laws making it a local crime to lie to the public in a government capacity...
      • Re:Not good enough (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:29PM (#47619189)

        So the first thing you'd need to do is convince the federal prosecutors to go after the problem, which is very unlikely since they're part of the same Good-Ol'-Boys Network.

        Very true. The Feds are the root of the problem. The justice dept provides money for drones, Stingrays, and armored vehicles for controlling pumpkin festivals [sentinelsource.com], through direct police-to-police channels, bypassing the citizens and our elected representatives. Then they can later use these same anti-democratic back-channels to call in favors when they want information or cooperation from local police. It is ridiculous to think that the justice dept will prosecute people for participating in a justice dept program in exactly the way that it was designed to operate.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The solution to this is to get the state legislatures to take back their control. They all need to pass a law that no municipality or other government entity within the state may receive any moneys or equivilent from any entity other than that state government.

          This will force the feds to negotiate directly with the state instead of at a lower level.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      The SJPD really hates their "boss", the mayor. But the mayor's office is the main group to hold them accountable. So when there's a breakdown in that chain of command then there's no surprise that there's a breakdown in relationship with the public as well.

      There's also the memo sent to the police chief where it said they only had a UAV and not a drone, and thus not required to be regulated by the FAA. So it make sense that the chief, and even the assistant chief that signed off on it, could claim that th

    • we're sorry we got caught lying. we'll do better next time!

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      Why is replacing an expensive human manned helicopter with a cheaper drone such a problem.
    • People should be going to prison for such deceit. We don't hold our officials accountable.

      But, who should be held accountable? There was at least one point in time (and maybe it is the case currently) that an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle by that description would not be considered a drone. This was certainly the opinion of most Slashdotters when the question involved the FAA's jurisdiction over Amazon's innovative new delivery system. The only thing we can unanimously agree on is that the editors should (but won't) be held accountable.

  • Not an apology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcrb (187104) <jcrb.yahoo@com> on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:33PM (#47618071) Homepage

    They make no mention of having been clearly non-responsive to the FOI request. The FOI asked for "Acquisition documents" that they hadn't got one yet doesn't get them out from having been trying to get one. And the excuse of "well we didn't know what the other department was doing" fails, the whole point of a FOI request is for them to find out of someone has the documents in any of their departments. The real problem is that these FOI laws lack meaningful penalties for failure to properly respond so no one ever does.

  • Yep (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tyrannicsupremacy (1354431) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:36PM (#47618095)
    So if a police department "doesnt have a drone" and someone finds a way to interrupt the signal of said nonexistent drone, leading to it's destruction, there wouldnt be any repercussions, right?
    • Re:Yep (Score:5, Funny)

      by houstonbofh (602064) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:46PM (#47618497)
      "Well, the police said they didn't have a drone, so it had to be them terrorists. So Bubba and me got our huntin rifles, and..."
      • "You got a purdy entenna!" remarked bubba.
        The crippled drone squirmed in discomfort.
        "Yep, Ah reckon Ahm gonna have a GOOD time wit you." He smiled, his rancid breath condensing on the glistening plastic surfaces of the (non)police drone.
        Bubba began to unfasten the buckle of his belt...
    • So if a police department "doesnt have a drone" and someone finds a way to interrupt the signal of said nonexistent drone, leading to it's destruction, there wouldnt be any repercussions, right?

      Not officially, no.

  • Be careful.

    Even when they say they turn theirs off, they don't.

    Seattle PD turned theirs off a year ago, but sometimes it turns on, which shows it isn't really off at all, but is turned back on by the feds at will.

    • ...but is turned back on by the feds at will.

      Quite interesting. Especially since San Jose's was purchased with a federal grant. Quick google search brings up an article that Dept of Homeland Security payed for Seattle's, too, and is handing out free money for other police departments to make similar purchases.

  • Drone? Quadcopter? (Score:5, Informative)

    by magarity (164372) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:52PM (#47618201)

    They were buying a little RC quadcopter not a Predator or Reaper.

  • by houghi (78078) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @06:58PM (#47618243)

    I love these USofA stories where people are caught lying and then nothing changes.
    Next a lot of people say how this should not be allowed and is even illegal and nothing changes.
    Later some people will quote the consititution and then finaly nothing happens at all.
    Perhaps some likes on facepalm or an octothorpe [wiktionary.org] will do something.

    Anybody working with kids or dogs knows that unless there are consequenses for bad behaviour, the bad behaviour will not change. Instead it will become more persistant.

    PS, if you clicked the link, hand in your geek card.

    • I love these USofA stories where people are caught lying and then nothing changes. Next a lot of people say how this should not be allowed and is even illegal and nothing changes. Later some people will quote the consititution and then finaly nothing happens at all. Perhaps some likes on facepalm or an octothorpe [wiktionary.org] will do something.

      Anybody working with kids or dogs knows that unless there are consequenses for bad behaviour, the bad behaviour will not change. Instead it will become more persistant.

      PS, if you clicked the link, hand in your geek card.

      The whole country is whistling past the graveyard. Most of us know in some way that we're going down the tubes. We have a captured political system that is unresponsive to the vast majority of citizens. We have an economic system that can't provide for a huge swath of the population. We have an intelligence and law enforcement community that is interested in keeping closer and closer tabs on what everyone is doing, and arrogating unaccountable power. We have a media establishment that just delivers pro

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:01PM (#47618255)
    Blah, blah, more transparency...sorry, really sorry...you can trust us now for sure!

    If I lied to the government twice during an official inquiry, I would be shoveling money into my lawyer's pockets to mitigate the damage.

    Hats off to the police. It's a thankless job, that doesn't pay enough, that I wouldn't want to do even if it paid the salary of a Wall Street Banker. But goddamn, you don't get to be above the law when you're tasked to enforce it. Especially when you're tasked to enforce it.

    • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:18PM (#47618321)

      you don't get to be above the law when you're tasked to enforce it. Especially when you're tasked to enforce it.

      Haven't had the privilege of meeting the "I'm the police, I have the power" officers in your local town yet eh? They are EVERY WHERE and they consider themselves above the law. I've had to interact with some of them a number of times on my front porch. I had an officer tell me about the curfew law in my town once and how he would enforce it, problem was, the law wasn't even close to what he was saying. I told him what the law was, he choose to press the issue so I shut up and took it up with the Chief of Police in private later. These guys with have attitudes and a little authority which has gone to their head and they don't mind using the "Police Grease" (the deference they get in public for wearing the uniform and side arm) to their personal gain.

      Don't get me wrong, not all officers are this way. Many are selfless public servants who get paid a pittance to risk their lives every day. My hat goes off to all of them who are doing the job, regardless of their ego status. Just don't fool yourself, some of them have some serious ego issues.

      • Don't get me wrong, not all officers are this way. Many are selfless public servants who get paid a pittance to risk their lives every day. My hat goes off to all of them who are doing the job, regardless of their ego status. Just don't fool yourself, some of them have some serious ego issues.

        There are many good cops. But until they go after the bad cops and run them off, all of them are represented by the assholes in the news.

        • We had a cop (detective) eating at a restaurant here locally a couple of weeks ago. An armed robber busted in through the back door to the kitchen and popped off a few rounds to let the folks present know he meant business.

          I'm sure there was a moment when this detective had to say to himself, after careful consideration, Damn, it's just me here. I have to do something.

          The detective confronted the restaurant robber, no Dillinger he, as he entered the dining room. The lesson to take from this is, "When the

          • by bobbied (2522392)

            Surprised there wasn't a CHL holder in attendance in Texas, not that I'd whip out the firearm with a police officer in the room taking care of it.

            Armed robbery is a really bad idea in Texas, there are way to many firearms out there being carried by CHL holders who are usually well trained and ready to make it into an ATTEMPTED robbery.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Except that it's not really clear that a law was broken. The police in its opinion did not think it had a drone but only had a UAV quadcopter. Their fault was not coming out with a big press release saying "we bought a toy copter with federal money and are going to be trying it out to see if it can help us". When they claimed to not have drones then they weren't lying unless you classify such a device as a drone. Certainly I think that "MuckRock News" thinks this is a drone but it seems from internal mem

  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loopy (41728) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @07:05PM (#47618273) Journal

    "We're sorry we got caught. Consider us chastised. It'll never happen again. Honest. For real this time."

  • Whoodathunk we'd get caught. Our bad. kthxbye
  • A See Through Drone?

Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

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