Available now at www.DCMPD.org, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has just updated and made public the largest and most comprehensive release of D.C. police documents in the history of D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
As a result of hard fought litigation, the PCJF has obtained hundreds of pages of General and Special Orders of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). We’ve taken these documents and created an online centralized index and document review site so that the residents of the District of Columbia can finally have access to the policies and practices of the MPD that have a daily impact on their lives.
"For too long, the D.C. police command sought to operate the department under the cloak of secrecy," stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF. "This three-year long litigation has successfully sought to shed light on the rules and orders under which police are allowed to exercise their vast authority."
"This struggle demanding police accountability and transparency is of the greatest relevance for the African-American and Latino communities that are disproportionately affected by arrests and many other police actions," stated Verheyden-Hilliard.
"In the course of this litigation, MPD officials and their attorneys filed false affidavits, sworn under penalty of perjury, with the Court, seeking to deprive DC residents of access to this material," stated Carl Messineo, Legal Director of the PCJF. "We have overcome this outrageous misconduct to shed light on the operations of the police."
Background on the Lawsuit and the MPD's Violations of the Law
The PCJF filed the lawsuit on February 5, 2009 when MPD officials refused to release documents in response to the PCJF's FOIA request seeking orders and policies that dictate how officers are to exercise their authority.
In 1975, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act requiring MPD policy and operational materials to be made available as public records. The D.C. MPD has been in willful violation ever since.
In 2001, after an audit found widespread non-compliance, the D.C. Council amended the FOIA to mandate that these records be published on the MPD’s web site as a matter of routine, so that the documents would be available to the public without a person or organization even needing to file a FOIA request. The MPD has been in willful violation of this mandate for over a decade.
During these years, organizations including the local NAACP chapter and the District of Columbia Government’s own Office of Police Complaints have demanded the MPD publish its basic operational orders on the Internet. Organizations like the local ACLU have been stonewalled by the MPD when they made formal FOIA requests for this information and could not obtain it. In September, 2008, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking production of the MPD’s general orders, special orders, staff manuals and policies and procedures. The MPD stonewalled again.
However, the PCJF went to Court and fought for three years to secure this trove of materials and make the information public. As a result DC residents and public interest organizations can now engage in oversight and evaluation of police policies and procedures, which can so intimately and intrusively affect the lives of the people of the District.
The MPD and its attorneys engaged in outrageous misconduct in a scorched earth litigation defense calculated to keep the public from accessing these records. MPD officials and District of Columbia attorneys filed in Court sworn affidavits that falsely claimed it would harm the public interest were the public to access the MPD’s policies and procedures. They went to all lengths, even invoking the threat of terrorist attack.
The PCJF fought without relent, in extensive and resource consuming litigation. When Judge Judith Macaluso reviewed the withheld materials against the sworn statements, she issued a ruling that found the MPD’s affidavits - - submitted under penalty of perjury - - were “transparently false.”
Judge Macaluso, speaking from the bench said the credibility of the statements sworn under penalty of perjury by MPD officials had “been smashed to smithereens.” The Judge repeatedly referred to the police's sworn statements as to why documents could not be seen by the public as "false," as well as "ridiculous," "practically hysterical," and "hyperbolic."
Judge Macaluso has ordered the release of nearly all the requested information. The MPD, in violation of the FOIA law, still refuses to publish all of this information on its web site, so the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has created its own web page to make this material available to the public at www.DCMPD.org.
This historic release of materials, including the latest release of documents ordered by the Court, can be viewed at www.DCMPD.org, a website which is operated by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in the public interest.