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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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  • 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 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.

  • 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.

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