Monday, September 11, 2017

Minnesota law enforcement held accountable with use of Tasers?

This evening I did a program on how to use the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to gain access to body camera video.  In the discussion there was a question asked, if a Taser or an energy-conducted weapon is used to stun or subdue a person is that video public?

Under current Minnesota law (13.825) substantial bodily harm is a standard that is used to allow public access to body camera video.  Therefore I made a request to the City Of Minneapolis as follows:

"Dear Mr. Carl:

Pursuant to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, I wish to review and inspect all government data documenting use of tasers (energy conducted weapons-ECW) by the Minneapolis Police Department from 2015 through July, 2017.  The request to review and inspect all government data would include, but not limited to, any body camera footage or documentation specific to the use of the ECW.

Any questions do not hesitate to call or contact me.


Rich Neumeister"

We will see what happens.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How to get bodycam video with Minnesota law

On September 11, 2017, Saint Paul-based non-profit Public Record Media (PRM) will host a Freedom of Information (FOI) workshop at the North Regional Library in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The event will be held in the library’s North Regional Meeting Room, and will run from 6:30pm-8:00pm.  The North Regional Library is located at 1315 Lowry Ave. N. in Minneapolis.
The workshop will explore how members of the public can use Minnesota’s Data Practices Act to obtain government records of interest to them.  Body camera footage will be used as an example of government data that requesters can obtain, and a discussion of issues related to body camera footage will be held.  The presentation will feature comments by Rich Neumeister, a long-time record requester and open government advocate. 
The event is free to the public. Participants are encouraged to bring ideas for their own public record requests.  RSVPs are encouraged by calling 651-556-1381, as space is limited.
Public Record Media is a Minnesota-based non-profit organization that conducts public record-centered publication, legal work, and education. Since 2014, PRM has hosted public record trainings throughout the state.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mr. N goes to Washington

I have been coming to Washington DC since 1972.  When I first came to the District of Columbia, Richard Nixon was President, there were demonstrations in the streets about the war, the Vietnam War; environmental issues started to get the whole attention of Congress with the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972 (later in the year); Watergate had not happened yet; and J Edgar Hoover was still alive.

Man, time has gone fast.  I have come to the City to work, live, and visit over the last 45 years and still inspired and excited to be here.  But, to where I can have the most impact on policies and laws it is at the local and state level.  That is where my heart is. Yes, Mr. Neumeister has come to Washington for another time.  But the purpose is to teach people about the possibilities they can have to make a difference.  I know they can.......

Monday, December 12, 2016

Secrecy of Stingray tracking of Minnesotan's is because of ignorance, carelessness, or complicity

A step to bring more sunshine and accountability to rapid new and secret technology used by law enforcement to the public and Minnesota Legislature has fallen short.  It was more of a document of bewilderment rather than anything else.

By statute every two years the Minnesota Court Administrator's office must file a report to the Minnesota Legislature about electronic surveillance activities that law enforcement does in Minnesota.  Such detail as from previous reports indicated specifically for what crimes, what was used, and so forth.  The 2016 report which was released last month was a very abbreviated version from the ones over the past few decades.  Just compare the 2016 report with any of the others from previous years, quite a difference.  Here is the one from 2014.

What these devices do and with their software is track an individual down to within feet of their exact location.  With add-on of software could intercept content of communication between people.  It is so "secret" on these matters even today the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension refuses to release even the amount they are paying for these surveillance devices to the Harris Corporation.

The report released last month was the first one since the implementation of the new law.  There was no detail about tracking warrants, particularly, how many times the Stingray and their brothers were used and for what purposes. And the reason why?

Tracking warrants were to be unsealed after the order was no longer needed for investigative purposes. There could be extensions for continued sealing but as it was clear in the 2014 legislation, eventually it would be public and even the subject of the surveillance would be notified.  But for nought this has never happened......they all remain sealed and secret.

The promise of scrutiny by the public and Minnesota Legislature of secret law enforcement surveillance activities with use of hush-hush high-tech technology by the 2014 law has been nixed. (The law had a reporting mechanism to be a part of the every two year report, subdivision 5)

It appears that law enforcement and the Minnesota courts could be participating in a culture of secrecy either out of ignorance, carelessness, or just plain complicity in not wanting to follow the law.

For more background on this issue please check out these news pieces by the Fox News affiliate Channel 9 and done by reporter Tom Lyden:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hennepin County Sheriff systematic destruction of emails and data

This is an email I sent off to a number of people today:

"This is a unique document attached to this email by the Sheriff of Hennepin County.  It highlights a number of reasons why to destroy emails, one being to "mitigate risk".  Could that mean finding out about questionable behavior such as their facial recognition program implementation which the public and Hennepin County Commissioners did not know about?  There other examples I know and can think of.

Another part of the policy says that emails saved for "legitimate law enforcement / business purposes.  Granted one can designate their communication any way they want......but this is not a classification for secrecy or make data not available to the public.  Important that this new designation not be used as a preventive move for people to get access to public data.

The technical destruction may happen or begin December 1st, 2016.

So why a public interest?

It appears that the Sheriff wants to obliterate the past and control what the public should have access to. (30 day destruction and by having less data to go through based on a request)

Emails have the ability to spell out rationale for policies and initiatives.  Absence of documentation on concerns and issues can hinder the public right to know, but also ability to see and understand why.

Emails can detail a trail of individuals and the appropriate ones that have been informed of a problem, situation, or responsibility. The Flint water crisis is an example that shows this through Michigan authorities release of emails.  As so happens many times the public becomes belatedly to knowledge or discover bad or questionable action done by government.  This why data such as emails matters a great deal.

Data such as emails matter in the context of financial accountability, but also of historic framework: putting together how something came about, for example, the Sheriff's facial recognition program or the social media surveillance program known as GeoFeedia that appears the agency is involved with.

Information matters, but when that data is destroyed in such a short time as the Sheriff Rich Stanek is doing, even Hennepin County, the ability of oversight and the power to take the data, a way of self-governing accountability is not achieved.

Rich Neumeister"

The link for the Hennepin County Sheriff destruction of email policy.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

FOIA, Trump/Clinton, and you.

This campaign cycle we have been hearing comments from the presidential candidates and their surrogates saying the media coverage is rigged or efforts by a non-profit organization is a "right-wing" conspiracy against them.  Such entities like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Judicial Watch are using public record laws to look into Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's past.

Holding individuals who want to lead the nation accountable is a fundamental thing to do.  This is why efforts using state and federal freedom of information laws has been under attack, it makes the candidates and their operations uncomfortable to answer the questions which the documents raise.

Nevertheless, you can also use the tools of freedom of information laws on a local and state level.  In Minnesota, it is known as the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.  Now I do not expect the reader of this post to read the law (linked above) and do a data request.  There are easier ways to understand the law and your rights to lift the veils of secrecy of government.

How to request information from a agency or entity of a local or state government:

The Information Policy Analysis Division which is part of the Minnesota Department of Administration offers the above suggestion.  They also offer advice  with a model letter how to ask for information from the government.

A simple letter by a citizen to a government agency can cause government and what it does to be exposed and ingenuous.  This is an example which I did in September of 2013.

"Pursuant to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act I wish to inspect and review all government data about the cell phone location tool known as the (Kingfish) including, but not limited to, such items as protocols, procedures, legal thresholds, Attorney opinions, evaluations, correspondence, and results of use."

This elementary request for public data sent off responses that found an agency lying to the public and the Minnesota Legislature about "StingRay."

To hold accountable government is just like holding candidates answerable who want to run for the highest elected office in the land.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Body cameras, attitude, legislature, and what's next

It has been a long time since I last wrote on these pages.  One huge reason why was my experience this past legislative session on the issue of body cameras.  I have said to many it was the most bitterest experience I had at the Minnesota Legislature in being there for four decades.  As many of you know I do not get paid for the work I do at the People's House.  It was time to reflect and assess, which I have done.  Like a "firebird" I have raised myself from the ashes of the past legislative session.  I will still be involved in the process, but with a different focus and effort

What have I been up to.  Here is a sample.  Communication I sent to interested parties today:

Next Monday, August 15, 2016, Public Record Media will be holding a free workshop for the public at the Duluth Public Library, 520 West Superior St.  From: 6:30pm to 8:00pm

This email is a follow up with more detail in which you may have an interest in to share with others or use in an announcement on Facebook or other type of media.

This will be our third year coming to Duluth.  The response from the residents of the Duluth community has been unbelievable. We have had continued interest from the community with communication from them with questions about freedom of information laws and how to use it since our first time in the Zenith City, in 2014.

This year we are a taking a different approach to our program, not necessarily a broad program explaining what freedom of information is.  But focusing on specific elements of the law with two presenters.

JT Haines, Duluth attorney, who has worked with Public Records Media as counsel in past.  He will explain important points about the use of the law to get access to public data.  He has focused as part of his past duties on proposed mining operations in northern Minnesota, such as Twin Metals and NorthMet projects.  He will share his experiences

The other presenter will be Rich Neumeister, an advocate for open government and an avid requester of public records.  The presentation by Mr. Neumeister will focus on the new body camera law which was passed by the Minnesota Legislature.  The law took effect on August 1, 2016.  Many people believe that the use of body cameras will bring transparency and accountability to the public on the use of police powers.  On the other hand, there are umpteen people who believe that the law is so geared towards law enforcement that there is in reality no clarity or onus.  Are they tools of surveillance and investigation............or a gadget to monitor how police do their duties?

Another topic covered in the program will be about the concept of inspection when one goes to the government agency to see and review the data individuals have requested.  In Minnesota law, it is very clear that people have a right to inspect data about their government or data that government has on them.  But in recent years, various agencies and entities are putting roadblocks for the public to get access to government data.