License Plate Cameras

All Cars Are Under Investigation, LAPD Tells Court


Adrian Pingstone

In the course of seeking data about the Los Angeles Police Department's automatic license plate reader program, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked the police for some information. Specifically, what plates cameras had captured over the course of two years, and the department's policies for using and retaining what those cameras nabbed. We can't tell you, the cops replied, because every car we see is under investigation, which makes it a (sshhhh) secret.

Every car. Over two years.

Specifically, in their court filing (a hearing is scheduled for March 21), LAPD mouthpieces wrote:

Government Code section 6254 sets forth numerous categories of records that are exempt from the disclosure requirements of the [California Public Records Act]. One of those categories, found in subdivision (f), exempts law enforcement investigatory records from disclosure….

The ALPR data sought in this case—electronic records consisting of vehicles' license plates, and the date, time and location those license plates were captured by the Department's ALPR cameras—constitute "records of…investigations conducted by … any local police agency" which fall squarely under this statutory exemption.

Just so there's no misunderstanding, the filing added, "All ALPR data is investigatory—regardless of whether a license plate scan results in an immediate 'hit' because, for instance, the vehicle may be stolen, the subject of an 'Amber Alert,' or operated by an individual with an outstanding arrest warrant."

"May?" Well, yes, any car that drives by a camera "may" be a lot of things. "May" opens up a fascinating world of speculation, full of intriguing possibilities. But, as the EFF's Jennifer Lynch wrote:

This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity. In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under "general warrants" that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.

The LAPD also said revealing the license plates it had tracked would threaten drivers' privacy. Unlike, apparently, tracking them to begin with.

The full filing is below.

NEXT: Rand Paul Attacks Obama on NSA Spying: "Martin Luther King was spied upon, civil rights leaders were spied upon"

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  1. Stay classy California.

  2. Don’t they realize that their evasion is a de facto admission that they are ignoring the Constitution? Telling us that we are all under investigation does NOT help their case.

    1. No, they don’t. Their minds are so warped by their outlook that they have lost sight of the foundations of the Republic: personal liberty and a presumption of individual decency.

      1. I refuse to believe that they don’t know even though I cannot entirely explain their pernicious rejection of the American way but something sinister has invaded modern law enforcement and it has nothing to do with peace work or community stabilization.

        Authority is granted through the rule of law and this process of law is subject to constitutional parameters. All of this destruction of rights and authoritarian arrogance must literally come down to the fact that the voting masses have been electing thugs for decades who’ve encouraged the system of governance in this country to turn in the favor of those who govern rather than address the concerns of the governed.

        America is only a representative form of government in theory- the actual practice no longer exists due to the preponderance of fucking bureaucratic tyrants who answer to no one but tiny committees of dick and cunt-sucking fools.

  3. How is this not totally illegal again?

    1. Laws are for peons ProLib, when are you going to figure that out?

      1. *Swivels camera in Hugh’s direction*

    2. Uuuummmmm…



  4. Every breath you take
    Every move you make
    Every bond you break
    Every step you take
    I’ll be watching you

    1. This one if actually a love song, but the lyrics seem to fit today:

  5. This is utterly consistent with the overarching, Constitutional requirement that the LAPD protect and “serve” man. Therefore, not understanding the basis for any lawsuit. The ACLU should be happy the LAPD are so all-seeing and comprehensive in their approach – the better to protect and “serve” man.

    Wait…serve…m….IT’S A COOKBOOK!!!!

  6. I may want to take the license plate, turn it sideways, and stick it straight up that LAPD mouthpiece’s ass. “May”.

  7. There’s special irony in the LAPD’s rejection, where they say that releasing the data would infringe on the privacy rights of the people whose license plates were recorded. Nothing about the privacy rights infringed when those license plates were recorded in the first place, of course.

  8. “May?” Well, yes, any car that drives by a camera “may” be a lot of things. “May” opens up a fascinating world of speculation, full of intriguing possibilities.

    For instance, every member of the LAPD may be a sheep fucker.

    1. They’ve never denied it.

      1. Better not try. It’s an indisputable fact.

    2. I too have heard rumors that many LAPD officers, especially Sgt. Daniel Gomez, may enjoy sex with various farm animals.

  9. Pfft. Whatevs. This is no different than if the LAPD had hired thousands of police officers with perfect recall to stand at intersections 24/7/365 and tabulate everything they saw into a giant database. It’s not an invasion of privacy for a public officer to see your license plate for a split second, so therefore this is perfectly legal because it’s exactly the same. You Luddites need to understand that technology is a good thing. It frees up human officers for the real policework: beating homeless people to death, frisking the dusky-complected and shooting pets.

    /Law and Order “Libertarian”

    1. Totally fucking irrefutable. I concede defeat.

      1. I WIN! I IS SO SMRT!

        1. Needs more shooting of innocent bystanders.

          1. That’ll come later, when the cameras are weaponized and can call in drone support.

  10. Reminded of the Jeselnik joke when the LAPD killed Christopher Dorner — “They finally got that manic cop off the streets, now there’s only 3000 left.”

  11. I eagerly await a police procedural from some Hollywood copsucker where the hero detectives solve each case in a matter of minutes due to this awesome new capability. They could do 5-6 cases every episode! L.A. would be crime free in just a few episodes.

  12. EFF’s Jennifer Lynch yet to learn to love Big Brother.

  13. If there were ever a time for mass civil disobedience, this would be a good one. Oops, my license plate was obscured…by my spare tire…in my trunk.

  14. Every house in L.A. “may” be the site of an as-yet unrevealed crime, so why not let the LAPD poke around in any house whenever they feel like it?

  15. All they need now is when they get an alert, a cyborg comes and pulls them over and takes care of the issue. Now they save millions of not having cops patrolling.

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