Who Watches the Watchers? Documenting a Public Records Oddyssey
Our response to this denial of public information from Metro:
Back at the end of January, a special needs woman was struck in the face by a Deputy with the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department on board a Metro Bus. The end of the incident, after the Sheriffs approached the woman, was caught on a cell phone camera by a man who claims the Sheriffs tried to intimidate him to turn over the footage. Video of the incident was turned over to NBC4 and was reported on throughout the world.
But the account of the citizen journalist and woman who was struck, that the Sheriffs boarded the bus was disputed by the deputies and some of the other riders on the bus that reported that the woman was the aggressor. With only the hand-held video and a “he-said, she-said” version of events, we asked Metro to release the video of the incident, from the moment the Sheriffs stepped on the bus, to Streetsblog. The request was denied by the media relations department who pointed us to the public records department. A formal public records request was submitted, but we were denied again.
At Streetsblog, we believe the actions of law enforcement towards those who rely on non-automobile transportation options is critical to supporting a culture where all road users are given equal rights and privledges. When a LAPD officer kicked at a Critical Mass bicyclist, the outcry led to a new level of interaction between the LAPD and the bicycling community. When a Sheriff strikes a woman in the face on a Metro bus while the woman is already restrained by his partner, an equal amount of scrutiny is needed.
We believe the public interest is served by giving as much information about these type of incidents to the public as possible and will continue to pursue this matter. We also believe that our own actions aren’t above scrutiny, and will continue to air our request for public records in a public way.