ACLU Foundation of Southern California v. Anaheim Police Department and ACLU Foundation of Northern California v. Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department
In May and July of last year, the ACLU Foundations of California submitted requests under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department, seeking documents related to the use of StingRays – highly invasive surveillance devices that allow law enforcement to track a suspect’s cell phone and, in the process, obtain a wide variety of information about the phones of all bystanders who happen to be within the device’s significant range.
The requests sought a variety of documents that under the CPRA are considered to be “public records,” including any contracts or agreements with the Florida-based manufacturer of StingRays, any judicial authorizations for the use of the Stingray, data-sharing policies, and funding requests.
The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department in June responded to the ACLU Foundation of Northern California’s request by admitting that documents exited, but refusing to disclose them. After a second ACLU Foundation of Northern California request, the sheriff’s department produced five redacted documents and cited, among other things, the Homeland Security Act and the Arms Export Control Act as its rationale for withholding its records.
The Anaheim Police Department in August claimed that the ACLU Foundation of Southern California’s request did not reasonably describe the records that were being sought, while at the same time acknowledging that records responsive to the ACLU Foundation of Southern California's request existed. The department refused to produce those records, citing, among other things, the trade-secret privilege as support for its position that the documents requested by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California are exempt from disclosure.
On March 10, 2015, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed lawsuits in the Orange County and Sacramento County Superior Courts for failing to produce documents requested in our Public Records Act request about the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department’s use of this surveillance tool.
Sacramento Sheriff’s New StingRay Surveillance Policy is Flawed (Sep. 16, 2015)