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

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the no-department dept.

Government 59

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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Not good enough (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618015)

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

Re:Not good enough (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618301)

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 (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 3 months ago | (#47618389)

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.

Re:Not good enough (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#47618471)

Or pass local laws making it a local crime to lie to the public in a government capacity...

Re:Not good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47623387)

There are already local laws, but they are superseded by county/state/federal law in that order.

So there's no point other than a protest - like Berkeley's "Nuclear-Free Zone."

Re:Not good enough (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

The solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47623695)

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.

Humiliation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47623671)

In most cases the "immunity" only applies if the person is in performance of their duty. But if you can show they were actually in commission of a crime, then that can't be construde as performance of duty, and the immunity could go away.

I say humiliate the judges and prosecutors. Judges biggest sin is their pride; if you poke them in their pride, they tend to react. Expose the fact that courts have been used like puppets by the prosecutors and law enforcers. The prosicutors need to be called a bunch of panzies and/or accessories to racketeering for their own lack of action.

The decision to use a jury or not is up to the defendant.

Re:Not good enough (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47619335)

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 they did not have a drone because that's what their executive summary said. I suspect some of the problem here is indeed the definition. The media has started calling just about everything a drone if it can hover with an attached camera, which is not the definition in use even 5 years ago. This thing they have is not much more than a toy in some sense, see the descriptions here: http://www.centuryheli.com/pro... [centuryheli.com]

Re:Not good enough (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 3 months ago | (#47620573)

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

Re:Not good enough (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 3 months ago | (#47622125)

Why is replacing an expensive human manned helicopter with a cheaper drone such a problem.

Re:Not good enough (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 3 months ago | (#47622447)

Because when asked about it, they lied repeatedly.

Re:Not good enough (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47624649)

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.

At least (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618033)

nonbiological drones don't make passenger shit fall into cloud clouding up shit and shitting up the cloud -- they have no passengers.

Support the GFFSC: Government fund for shitless clouds!

Not an apology (5, Insightful)

jcrb (187104) | about 3 months ago | (#47618071)

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.

Not an apology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618553)

I would say the really real problem is that law enforcement everywhere seems to have developed the notion that it needs to have secret technologies, that the role of the secret is to preserve the power of the technology, and that control of that power is more important than the laws it enforces.

After saying that, yes, penalties for lying your way out of a FOI request should be increased. However, I bet a thousand jelly-filled donuts that the police in the US soon have access to, and make habitual use of, something like the "National Security" clause.

Yep (5, Funny)

Tyrannicsupremacy (1354431) | about 3 months ago | (#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 (4, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#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..."

Re:Yep (2)

Tyrannicsupremacy (1354431) | about 3 months ago | (#47618621)

"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...

Re:Yep (2)

Razed By TV (730353) | about 3 months ago | (#47619439)

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.

Re:Yep (1)

Tyrannicsupremacy (1354431) | about 3 months ago | (#47621397)

Fuck. I forgot that PDs resort to off the record deeds when in a fix.

Re:Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47623767)

That's the way I see it.

Seattle PD turned theirs back on (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 3 months ago | (#47618099)

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.

Re:Seattle PD turned theirs back on (1)

Atomic Fro (150394) | about 3 months ago | (#47618203)

...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? (4, Informative)

magarity (164372) | about 3 months ago | (#47618201)

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

Re:Drone? Quadcopter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618509)

I really dont think its the item that is in question, but how its used, protected, hidden, and how these people should be dealt with..

focus on the crime, no the objects involved..

Re:Drone? Quadcopter? (3, Insightful)

mcl630 (1839996) | about 3 months ago | (#47618695)

Yep... if they had been forthright about what they were buying and why in the first place, there likely wouldn't be any controversy here. The controversy is that they lied about it.

Re:Drone? Quadcopter? (2)

JonathanR (852748) | about 3 months ago | (#47619795)

"What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Re:Drone? Quadcopter? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47619355)

What is the crime though? They claim they did not have a drone, and they did not call this thing a drone, and quite a lot of people would not call that device a "drone". If the crime is that they lied when asked if they had a "drone" then it's not clear any crime was committed.

Dorry we got caught (4, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Dorry we got caught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47620421)

thanks to my lazy card, i still have my geek card.

Re:Dorry we got caught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47621239)

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'm sorry sir, we have no records of a geek card purchase. We don't have any geek cards.

Re:Dorry we got caught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47622095)

If you say "hand in your geek card", hand in your geek card. Being a geek is not about an elite club, it's about being passionate about something and sharing knowledge.

Re:Dorry we got caught (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 3 months ago | (#47622733)

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 propaganda and entertainment and cannot take on serious subjects that might ruffle any feathers. We, as a society, can't seem to respond to problems like climate change and the need for clean, renewable energy.

We know we're hanging from a cliff, and we're afraid to look down and take in the magnitude of the height we are at. If we just keep pretending everything is okay, maybe it will all just work itself out. Things will have to get worse before they get better, because reality will have to hit us in the face hard enough that we cannot pretend it doesn't exist.

Re:Dorry we got caught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47622989)

Well. Outside of donning some crazy dark costume complete with tights and a mask ( or just an accurate rifle ) and going all vigilante on the folks who break the laws without fear of consequence, there really isn't much the citizens of the US can do about it.

Though, admittedly, the vigilante path is sounding better and better every day :| It is the only way justice will ever be equal across the board, regardless of wealth, power or position. Bullets really don't care how important you think you are, they do the job equally well across the entire spectrum.

I know, that last statement will generate a lot of counter-remarks about how guns are evil, talk of this nature is ( insert the buzz word of the day here ) and taking matters into your own hands is just BAD. . . . . M'Kay ?

The point is, justice in this country is not equal. If you believe otherwise then you are naive. Has anyone gone to jail over the subprime bullshit yet ? How about the use of those Stingrays ? Drones they claim they don't have ? Parallel Construction of evidence ? Flat out lying to everyone about what your agency is / is not doing ? ( Even while under oath ? lol ) Domestic Surveillance ? Any NUMBER of activities that are completely illegal under the Constitution of this country ?

All you need to do is pull your head out of the sand once in a while and take a look around. When the justice system fails and believe me, it has, then it ultimately falls to the citizens to set it straight.

Go ahead, tell me I need to write my congressman, or go take part in a protest that will get gassed and overrun by police in riot gear when the powers that be get tired of it. ( Or get put on a terrorist watch list because you took part in it ) Assuming they don't make you protest in some free speech zone so you don't become a bother to anyone that is. :|

Until there are some TRUE consequences for their actions, those with wealth, power and influence will continue with this behavior because they know the laws don't apply to them. They're designed to apply to the peasants, not the nobility.

History shows us it occasionally takes torches and pitchforks to deal with corruption.

Forgiveness later rather than permission up front (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (3, Informative)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#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:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#47618525)

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.

Re:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (0)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 3 months ago | (#47618951)

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 cops in Texas tell you to drop the weapon, they mean right now, because you'll be dropping it either way."

Re:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#47622265)

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.

Re:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618821)

Those who uphold the law obey it.

Those who enforce the law do not, if it is "inconvenient" or might not result in a conviction.
 
captcha "grovel", how appropriate.

Re:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 months ago | (#47619403)

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 memos that the police did not consider it a drone. Yes, there is clearly a confusion about definitions going on here but it is not clear if there were any laws broken, or if they were required to communicate the fact that they were experimenting with an expensive RC copter.

Personally I don't know if it's a drone or not. Every month the definitions change. I'd say that five years ago I would have said such a thing is not a drone. Today however I'm not sure.

Re:Forgiveness later rather than permission up fro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47626523)

Except that it's goddamn clear what was being asked about, and the answer was not provided in a truthful manner. i.e.: THEY LIED.

In other words... (4, Insightful)

Loopy (41728) | about 3 months ago | (#47618273)

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

perjury?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47618467)

So,, let me git this straight.

If we do it when questioned by officials we can go to jail..
I even believe some individuals in HIGH offices have gone to prision over this..

but....

when most individuals in an important position commit these offences, they get to apologize and move on?

WTF???

was even most interesting abou tthis petitcular case is that it's proported by the individuals whom are supposed to uphold this law...

makes ya wonder
 

Was that wrong? Should we have not done that? (1)

Snotnose (212196) | about 3 months ago | (#47618849)

Whoodathunk we'd get caught. Our bad. kthxbye

FailZor5?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47619003)

But they say that they DON'T have a drone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47619507)

From a skim of TFA, it appears that they do not, in fact, have a drone. They admit that they have a UAV, but despite the MSM brainwashing, UAVs (and consumer quadcopters, for that matter) are not drones. Drones operate autonomously: program it, hit go, walk away. A UAV, like a back yard quadcopter, is operated by remote control.

Before anyone starts shouting "OMG, semantics", the only reason that that is the case is that the idiots who've been reporting on quadcopters and UAVs keep referring to them as drones. (In fairness, the reporters are probably parroting knobs from the three-letter agencies who would no doubt love to have the public convince themselves that all remote control vehicles are all evil drones and that anyone who operates them must therefore be ter'ists. They're counting on unquestioning stupidity. Think for yourself. Question authority. They hate it when you do that.)

Ah Ha, San Jose Police ! 'Nough Said (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47619551)

The U.S.A.'s own East Berlin Stasi stand tall.

You said you didn't have one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47619579)

... here's a sledge hammer. Make your statement true.

By the way, that's coming out of your pay.

Transparency? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 months ago | (#47620257)

A See Through Drone?

FOIA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47620523)

I would've figured that the informed Slashdot commenters would know that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) only applies to the **Federal** government...

Known liars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47620565)

The days that a policemans honesty was unquestionable are now gone. They are now known liars and liars lie.

not spam (-1, Flamebait)

BlaiseCollinsonvum (3777607) | about 3 months ago | (#47620615)

my roomate's half-sister makes $63 /hr on the internet . She has been without work for ten months but last month her pay was $17500 just working on the internet for a few hours. check this >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> WÃWÃW.JÃuÃmÃpÃÃ62.CÃoÃÃÃm

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47622751)

You're only sorry because you were caught..

if we say it didn't happen, it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47626325)

local PDs have learned a lot from the Feds over the recent years. All that is needed is a statement claiming innocence, and that's usually good enough to be reprinted verbatim as "truth" with no investigation or cynicism that self interest might not always be honest.

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