It's Almost Like the Dallas PD Just Doesn't Care With These Bomb Robot FOIAs

I paid over $20 and just got my original request back.

|
Sep 30 2016, 6:15pm

Photo: Laura Buckman/Getty Images

In July, the Dallas Police Department killed a criminal suspect with a robot, ushering in something of a new paradigm of policing. Naturally, in light of such an unprecedented event, a flurry of journalists filed requests under Texas' freedom-of-information-like law, to try and get more details or context related to the incident.

But in some cases, the police department has just taken the piss, and released next-to-useless records, despite requests for different documents all together.

On the day media reported that a bomb robot had been used to kill the suspect, Motherboard filed several requests under Texas' Public Information Act. One of those was for all emails, text messages, legal opinions, and other communications held, received, sent, or maintained by the Dallas Police Department on the day of the killing, and a few days after, concerning use of a bomb robot to kill a suspect.

The department asked us to provide the names of those we wanted emails from, but since our request was for all communications, we declined.

On August 24, the department said that the records were ready, and asked for $21.94. Excited that I may be getting something interesting, I paid straight away.

Then, earlier this month, the file arrived: 2 pages, which only included my original request.

I'm going to guess that my email was not the only communication held, received, sent, or maintained by the Dallas PD during an intense crisis in the city, and subsequent tracking down of an armed assailant, and the deployment of a robot to kill him.

Screengrab courtesy the author

Another technology journalist, Cyrus Farivar from Ars Technica, also got back a rather surprising response.

"I filed records request to @DallasPD re their robot-as-bomb. They mostly sent back printed tweets," Farivar tweeted on Friday, along with a photo of said, low-quality printed tweets.

According to a follow-up tweet, Dallas Police Department even charged Farivar $3.75 for the privilege of seeing what a quick scroll through Twitter would have found.

To be fair, some journalists have gained valuable insight into the event, albeit without the actual release of documents. Dallas Police Department couldn't find any departmental doctrine for killing a suspect with a robot, according to a request filed by Gawker.

Motherboard's other requests are looking more promising, although it looks like one of them has been lost in the mail at this point as well. Here's hoping it's somewhat more worthwhile than what the department has been sending out already.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.