Lambda Back in Court for LAPD Lewd Conduct Arrest Records
(LOS ANGELES, January 20, 2000) — Concerned that the Los Angeles Police Department continues to target gay men with discriminatory law enforcement tactics, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund sued the agency Thursday for the release of lewd conduct arrest records it is vigorously resisting from making public.
"We believe these files will show that police officers purposely entice gay men and selectively enforce lewd conduct laws against us. While non-gays engaging in public sexual activity are told to 'take it home,' gay men are taken to jail –- often for doing far less," said Staff Attorney Myron Dean Quon from Lambda’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles.
He added, "Most often, lewd conduct arrests are made by police officers who aggressively pursue and make explicit advances to gay men who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. This kind of discriminatory treatment is illegal."
Lambda filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court after the LAPD failed to comply with Lambda’s latest request for documents regarding recent arrests made under the state lewd conduct statute, which applies to both non-gay and gay people alike. The case is Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund v. City of Los Angeles.
For the last three years, Lambda has asked for the files under the state Public Records Act (PRA), a law meant to prevent local government agencies from putting a blanket of secrecy over their public activities.
Lambda’s first PRA request, filed on July 3, 1997, was turned down by interim Police Chief Bayan Lewis, who said the department lacked the resources to comply with the query. But less than a year later, in May 1998, police officials ordered their vice units to undertake an extensive internal examination of the arrest records.
When it heard of the internal review, Lambda revived its PRA claim. Although officers already were poring over the files Lambda sought, the department again claimed insufficient staffing to produce the records, and for the first time claimed that the papers were exempt from disclosure.
In subsequent requests to the LAPD, Lambda repudiated the agency’s new claims and reiterated Lambda’s entitlement to the police documents, most recently in a letter sent October 18. However, all entreaties were rebuffed by the LAPD. In October, the department’s Rampart Division was rocked by explosive allegations that dozens of officers routinely beat, framed, and even shot suspects.
Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson said, "The LAPD’s targeting of gay men, and the constant stonewalling of attempts to shed light on this injustice, only serves further to erode the public’s confidence in the city’s police officers."
In addition to filing the PRA requests, Lambda previously has gone to court to force the LAPD to release the files. But faced with the possibility of having to reveal the records, the city dismissed all charges in Chapman v. Municipal Court, rendering the case moot.
Susan L. Hoffman and John D. Schlotterbeck of the Los Angeles office of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, represent Lambda in the case. Lambda is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.
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