“There is no real substantive change”
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition Continues to Demand Answers from
LAPD about Suspicious Activity Reporting Program
Released on May 22, 2012
On May 17th three organizations – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – met with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to discuss LAPD’s Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) program called Special Order 1.
After the meeting MPAC issued a press release stating, “The agreed upon reforms by LAPD are a victory for partnerships between communities and law enforcement nationwide,” said Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC President. “LAPD, in contrast to NYPD, is developing practices and policies after engaging communities.”
The MPAC press release was followed by several news items including an LA Times story on May 19th titled “LAPD to alter policy on data possibly related to terrorism” further legitimizing the claim of “agreed upon reforms by LAPD” yet dismissing and undermining many communities who don’t accept LAPD’s cosmetic changes and demand that SO 1 and 11 be rescinded and the iWatch program terminated.
To be very clear, there’s no official LAPD notification beside self congratulatory statements. There’s been no opportunity for community members to weigh in and engage in public comment. There’s no clarity about whether enforcement based upon current policies has been halted or will continue as usual. In spite of the city having a huge budget deficit, there has been no transparency around program costs.
LAPD has failed to address broader community’s concerns which were clearly expressed at the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition community townhall on March 3rd and the LAPD “SAR Symposium” on April 26th. Numerous community members including youth, downtown residents, homeless and poor folks, LGBT community members, undocumented immigrants, and civil and human rights activists present at the “Symposium” left feeling that “these Suspicious Activity Reports and Special Orders are a way for the LAPD to create a problem, real or not, and then find their solution to it. It justifies their spying, abuse and violence- it’s not right.”
Furthermore, on April 9th the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, in partnership with the National Lawyers Guild, filed a Request for information under the California Public Records Act. We still await full disclosure from LAPD therefore we lack enough documentation to fully understand the magnitude and scale of this program. How can we in good faith accept any “reforms” to a policy that affects all Angelenos without thorough knowledge of the programs’ origin, its staffing, city resources invested, accountability process, and linkages to broader LAPD enforcement and surveillance policies?
To claim victory and assess success based upon partial information and limited analysis is not only naïve but dangerous: it creates an illusion of safety which renders Angelenos vulnerable and suspect under this program. Even more revealing is how LAPD views the “reforms” itself! In an email to securitymanagement.com, LAPD Deputy Chief Downing states “”All we did was put the ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] definition of SAR in the order and separated the 9 non-criminal behaviors from the 6 criminal behaviors and included an indented note… said Downing, “There is no real substantive change.” In a Huffington Post article titled “LAPD Modifies Surveillance Program of Muslims,” LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow maintains that “The program is as robust as it is now.” The title of the Huffington Post article also affirms the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s challenge to LAPD’s continued negotiations about impact of these policies only upon Muslims, further legitimizing terrorist stereotyping of Muslim communities.
This “Orwellian” victory should be an alarm and wake up call for many who remain deeply concerned about the erosion of liberties, intrusion into their privacy and the ever strengthening Police State. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition continues to build community power and hold LAPD accountable. We will continue to demand answers and will expose LAPD’s surveillance and spying apparatus in all its manifestations. Barring such proactive efforts to engage with, listento and build relationships with many impacted communities, these recent developments are a threat to building a long term social justice movement that is inclusive and not beholden to power brokers. This is an example of how our efforts get neutralized.
STAY TUNED FOR NEXT STEPS – COMING SOON!