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PCJF Files FOIA Request After Police Killing in Trinidad

Demands Public Disclosure of Park Police/FBI/MPD Operation

In response to reports that a resident of the District was shot in the back and killed last night in the Trinidad neighborhood by undercover federal law enforcement agents, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) today demanding disclosure of the directives and policies authorizing and implementing the program through which the officers were operating.

Few D.C. residents are aware of the existence of this FBI-led undercover law enforcement operation through which plain-clothed Park Police officers opened fire in the midst of a D.C. neighborhood. The fact of this operation, shrouded in darkness, came to light in reports published today that the officers involved in the above-referenced incident were working as part of an MPD and federal “inter-agency task force dubbed Operation Safe Streets, which addresses violence throughout the region and is overseen by the FBI.” (See Debbi Wilgoren and Martin Weil, The Washington Post, June 9, 2009, online edition)

The FOIA request was submitted to the MPD, the Mayor’s Office, the FBI and the National Park Service’s Police.

“This shooting raises questions that the residents of the District have the right to have answered,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of the PCJF. “There is scant public reference on the MPD website to this task force, by which federal officers are apparently deployed in plain clothes or undercover capacity within residential neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., and also with the apparent authority to use lethal force.”

In February, the PCJF filed a lawsuit to force the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to disclose its orders and policies. The DC MPD is in violation of its legal obligations as mandated by the D.C. Council in 2001 to make this information public and has further refused to make such information public upon written request under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit legal and educational organization that, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices. The PCJF is counsel on the lawsuit challenging the MPD’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program previously deployed in Trinidad, now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The PCJ previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrating lawful and peaceful groups.