ACLU argues against Pittsburgh’s denial of information about police military technology, tactics
The city of Pittsburgh provided an overbroad, “boilerplate” denial to the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for information about its police’s military technology and tactics without even searching for the information, a lawyer representing the ACLU said in court Monday.
Not only did the city fail to look for the records, it did not state a reason for denying the March 2013 request, Andrew Stanton, a lawyer with K&L Gates, told a panel of Commonwealth Court judges hearing the ACLU’s appeal of the city’s denial.
The city’s response “doesn’t say which exemptions or why they apply,” Stanton said. “It doesn’t even say the records exist.”
Assistant City Solicitor Matthew S. McHale acknowledged that the city didn’t search for the records, despite a law that says it must make a “good faith” effort.
He argued to Judges Anne E. Covey, Bernard L. McGinley and Rochelle S. Friedman that the ACLU’s appeal should be dismissed because its response to the city’s denial was overly broad.
McHale said the city’s response “meets the terms of the statute.” The purpose of the state’s Right-to-Know Law isn’t “to answer questions about how the world works,” he added.
The ACLU sought several records related to the city’s SWAT team, including the number of times it has been deployed, the type of weapons and training materials it uses, funding sources and the number of injuries to civilians during deployments since January 2011.
The organization also sought information about GPS tracking devices, the use of drones and military weaponry and vehicles obtained through federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
The request was part of a national effort.
The judges set no timetable for when they will render their opinion.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.