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Lawsuit accuses Washington, D.C. police of keeping ‘watch list’ of critics -Breaking


© Reuters. One person strolls along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, with the Washington Monument, and U.S. Capitol behind, after an unusual stormy night in Washington. This was January 17, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – The District of Colombia’s Metropolitan Police Department maintains a watch list of journalists, advocates, and critics. They delay or deny requests for public documents based on the person making them, a lawsuit alleged.

The watch list is created when people “publicly criticize MPD” or request information that could embarrass MPD officers. This was according to Amy Phillips (defense attorney, police reform advocate) who filed a lawsuit against the District of Colombia at the U.S. District Court of Washington.

The list said those who request Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA) “face hurdles the general public doesn’t see” like fees and denials.

This suit seeks to end the practice of using the list and declare that it is in violation of the Constitution.

MPD recognized the seriousness of the allegations.

In a statement, it stated that “a thorough review of assertions will take place and appropriate actions taken upon.”

Muriel Bowser, Washington’s Mayor, stated that FOIA requests must be processed “as quickly as possible.”

“I expect it from every agency. This is what I am going to be looking at. “The speed in which we respond should be independent of who asks for it,” she stated in a Thursday statement.

According to the suit, Phillips was informed of the list by Vendette Parker (a 21-year veteran who retired in 2020). According to the suit, records requested by people on the list were marked for special review because they could be embarrassing the department.

According to the suit’s allegations, Peter Newsham was the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department between September 2016 and December 2020. He had ordered the FOIA compliance officers of the department to notify him about all incoming requests. According to the lawsuit, Robert Contee is still chief of police.

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