Palo Alto Police Department’s Disappointing and Confusing Oakland Occupy Disclosure

As reported earlier we set out to determine through the California Public Request Act the actual costs and involvement by the PAPD in assisting the Oakland Police Department in the now ongoing and much publicized raid on the encamped Occupy demonstrators.

Key highlights of our public records request and the city’s response was provided by assistant police chief Mark Venable which we have italicized in bold font.

The responses are rather revealing but not surprising given the on-going secretive policies http://bit.ly/etUzF7 of the PAPD.

1. Any policies, guidelines, or other documentation regarding the use of police services rendered to other policing agency’s including the City of Oakland, California.

Attached is a copy of the Santa Clara County Mutual Aid Protocols:

Mutual Aid Protocols-Part one

Mutual Aid Protocols-Part two

2. List of all tactical equipment used during this operation.

Records of intelligence information or security procedures of a local police agency are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code section 6254(f).  There are no non-exempt records that contain this information.

3. Copy of request for services received by the city of Palo Alto’s police department from the city of Oakland California on staffing requirements.

There are no documents responsive to this request.

We find this response hard to believe in that there was no coordinating communication between cooperating agencies.

4. Total number of Palo Alto Police officers used / employed during operation.

Fourteen officers responded to the mutual aid request.

5. Total amount of salaries including overtime.

There are no documents responsive to this request.

Some have suggested the cost may exceed 3 million Will Occupy Oakland Costs Exceed $3 Million? How can anyone believe there were no costs impacting the city of Palo Alto in terms of time and expenses.

Salaries and wages of police officers are in fact public knowledge.  Fourteen PAPD officers responded to this Mutual Aid operation.  Where did they receive their funding? From the tooth fairy!

6. Number to weapons fired: (1) Teargas (2) Tazers (3) Beanbags (4) Bubberbullets

There are no documents responsive to this request.  However, please note that the Palo Alto Police Department does not have or use propelled teargas canisters or rubber bullets.

Now this response is in total contrast to the inquire received by Palo Alto resident Nat Fisher to a similar question posed to PAPD Police Chief Dennis Burns in an email obtained by Palo Alto Free Press. 

“Were the “chemical agents” tear gas and or something else?”

Chief Burns response, “At the request of the Oakland Police Department, Palo Alto officers did use chemical agents once officers had rocks, bottles and other weapons thrown at them.  I approved the request to send our officers.”

7. Total number of vehicles used.

There are no documents responsive to this request.

Again, we are dismayed by the lack of knowledge and response coming from the second in command of the Palo Alto Police Department.  Did they parachute in?

8. Tactical name assigned by the Palo Alto Police Department for the city of Oakland, California.

No tactical name was assigned by the Palo Alto Police Department for the city of Oakland, California.

Again, assistant police chief Mark Venable goes out of his way to provide as little information as possible.  In fact, he has refused all follow-up emails and phone calls.

The California Public Records Act is the equivalent on a state level as the Freedom of Information Act is on a Federal level.  (FOIA)  The law states the agency must provide the following: California Public Records Act Government Code Sections 6250-6270

6253.1.(a) When a member of the public requests to inspect a public record or obtain a copy of a public record, the public agency, in order to assist the member of the public make a focused and effective request that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, shall do all of the following, to the extent reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) Assist the member of the public to identify records and information that are responsive to the request or to the purpose of the request, if stated.

(2) Describe the information technology and physical location in which the records exist.

(3) Provide suggestions for overcoming any practical basis for denying access to the records or information sought.

(b) The requirements of paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) shall be deemed to have been satisfied if the public agency is unable to identify the requested information after making a reasonable effort to elicit additional clarifying information from the requester that will help identify the record or records.(c) The requirements of subdivision (a) are in addition to any action required of a public agency by Section 6253.(d)

This section shall not apply to a request for public records if any of the following applies:

(1) The public agency makes available the requested records pursuant to Section 6253.

(2) The public agency determines that the request should be denied and bases that determination solely on an exemption listed in Section 6254.

(3) The public agency makes available an index of its records.

Where we find assistant police chief Mark Venable’s statement, There are no documents responsive to this request.” indicates he put forth no effort at suggesting ways the answers to ALL questions could have been successfully achieved as mandated by law. 

What we do find is obfuscation and ambiguity in applying the law as noted in question number 2.

2. List of all tactical equipment used during this operation. Here assistant police chief Mark Venable claimed this information was “exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code section 6254(f).”

However, this information was in fact partially revealed in the same email from Palo Alto resident Nat Fisher received from Police Chief Dennis Burns.

“As part of a Bay Area wide, regional mutual aid request by the Alameda County Sheriffs Office through the Santa Clara County Sheriffs Office, the Palo Alto Police Department responded to assist Oakland PD on October 25th.

At the request of the Oakland Police Department, Palo Alto officers did use chemical agents once officers had rocks, bottles and other weapons thrown at them.  

I approved the request to send our officers.  We have not responded to assist Oakland subsequently.”

This information seems to be in direct contrast to the answer we received in number 6. Number of weapons fired: (1) Teargas (2) Tazers (3) Beanbags (4) Bubberbullets.

“There are no documents responsive to this request.  However, please note that the Palo Alto Police Department does not have or use propelled teargas canisters or rubber bullets.

Phone calls and emails sent to both police chief Dennis Burn and acting assistant police chief Mark Venable seeking clarification have gone unanswered.