D.C. Officials Argue Their Watchlist Requests Weren’t Biased

(FreedomBeacon.com)- The Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine, has urged a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the MPD maintains a watchlist of department critics who regularly submit information requests and those on the watchlist are subjected to heightened security.

The lawsuit, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia by Amy Phillips last month, argues that the MPD set aside FOIA requests from certain people until they underwent “special review by high-ranking officials.” Phillips contends that those on that list are more likely to face additional hurdles in obtaining information requests that the average public does not face.

But Racine argues that any instances of delayed or denied requests were only “isolated lapses” and not a “pattern of adverse treatment.” Racine wrote that while some requesting FOIA requests “may be treated differently,” that isn’t evidence that the MPD is discriminating based on viewpoint or content.

Amy Phillips, who claims that her name is among those on the list, said she was told of the MPD’s watchlist in 2020 by a former inspector at the MPD, Vendette Parker. In her lawsuit, Phillips claims Parker was told to notify chief MPD officers whenever she received a FOIA request from people who might be seeking information that would embarrass the department.

But Racine contends that nothing Phillips alleges in her suit suggests that the MPD watchlist policies violate Freedom of Information Act requirements. Racine maintains that sending information requests up the chain of command is done to ensure the Chief of Police has the information necessary to “communicate to the press about high profile matters” and therefore is a “sensible policy.”

Because of this, Racine argues, Phillips “failed to allege that any policy involved” the improper application of FOIA.

Phillips’ attorney, Charlie Gerstein dismissed Racine’s claims, noting the lawsuit doesn’t just allege the MPD is delaying the release of information requests so the MPD has time to respond to the press. The lawsuit also alleges that MPD delays “for the purpose of slowing down public criticism.” Gerstein also notes that the complaint alleges that the MPD improperly withheld information requested by people who are on the list.