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FOIA documents were requested from the GRPD in September: Why is it taking so long?

December 2, 2019

On September 16th of this year, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Grand Rapids Police Department regarding the May 1st, 2019 march that was organized by Movimiento Cosecha GR.

When submitting the request, I was asked by the GRPD if I wanted all GRPD communications or just those from the Command Unit. I chose just the Command Unit, since they are the ones giving the orders and to avoid the often repetitive nature of FOIA requests.

This is how the GRPD responded to my specific request, which clarified the scope of their monitoring and response to Movimiento Cosecha GR’s May 1st march:

All emails, texts, memorandum, reports or other public records including but not limited to communications from/to GRPD Command Staff personnel and other Command Staff GRPD personnel and from/to GRPD Command Staff personnel and other law enforcement agency including ICE, HSD, MSP, KCSD and Wyoming PD from April 15 to May 2 regarding May 1, 2019 Movimiento Cosecha GR March from Garfield Park to Pinery Park.

I was told that I would receive a response by September 30th, with an estimated cost for the FOIA request and the number of pages the GRPD had on the May 1st action.

On September 25th I received an e-mail from the GRPD that stated that the estimated cost for this FOIA request would be $578.64. I then sent another e-mail asking how many pages this included and their response was, “350 pages, plus attachments.”

In addition to the total estimated cost for the FOIA, they sent me a breakdown of the costs for gathering the information by a clerk with the GRPD and then having someone redact (black out) information they consider too sensitive for the public to see. Here is the breakdown of the cost they sent me.

A group of allies in support of Movimiento Cosecha GR raised the money for the FOIA request, so I went down to the police station to paid 50% of the estimated cost on October 15th. The person I gave the money to, then gave me a receipt and a letter stating that I would be able to obtain the documents within an estimated 20 business days from the date of the first payment…..October 15.

I was then told by the GRPD that 20 business days landed on Nov. 13, so I sent another e-mail asking if I could come by on November 14th or 15th with a thumb drive to obtain the FOIA documents and pay the balance. The GRPD’s response was, “No problem. Once I email you the final invoice, you can come in any time after that and pay the remained of the cost. I’ll have the records ready.”

I asked for clarification on November 13th on how long it might take. The GRPD responded on that same day saying, “The records are being reviewed by my Captain so it won’t be much longer.

I sent two more e-mails asking if the documents were ready and I received no reply. After talking with Movimiento Cosecha GR, we decided that it would appropriate to show up in person asking if the documents were ready and what it was taking so long.

On Wednesday, November 27th, several of us went to the police station in downtown Grand Rapids and walked up to the window where I had paid half of the estimated cost. I showed them the receipt and the letter they gave me stating it would be an estimated 20 business days and said that 20 business days was two weeks ago. We were told in a rather condescending tone that “it was an estimated 20 days” and “we will send you a message when it is ready.”

Ok, so according to the cost document shown above, it took a clerk 1 hour to collect all of the data and an estimated 15 hours for a captain with the GRPD to redact the documents. Again, I ask, why is this taking so long, since as of today, the documents have still not been released, which was two and one-half weeks ago from the estimated time of completion?

Of course, once the documents are obtained, we will provide some analysis of what they contained. In the meantime it is important for people to think about why the GRPD would have 350 pages (plus attachments) about a non-violent march from May 1st of the 2019, a march that was organized by Movimiento Cosecha GR. Hasta La Huelga!!!

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