Thursday, July 18, 2019

The City of Lorain is slow-walking my public records request. Correction: It looks like their reasons were valid.

The City of Lorain is slow-walking my public records request. correction: the reasons for the delay were valid. I'm leaving the full correspondence online anyway.


Mon 6/10/2019 3:43 PM
Re: Request for Use of Force Reports

Chief Rivera,

This is Rob Loftis, from the Police Use of Force Monitoring Team of the northeast Ohio chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Previously you had provided us with your updated use of force policy. Thank you again for that. Another part of our mission is to track ongoing use of force incident reports. Pursuant of that, we are requesting all use of force reports for your department since January 9, 2017. Thank you very much for your time.

J. Robert Loftis


Tue 6/25/2019 8:51 AM
Re: Public Records Request

Mr. Loftis,

We are in receipt of your records request.  I am estimating it will cost $40.00 to complete the request. We would need payment prior to starting the request.


Captain Michael Failing


Sat 6/29/2019 5:50 AM
Re: Public Records Request

Sure. Where do I send the check and whom do I make it out to?



Sent: Friday, July 12, 2019 10:01 AM
Subject: Record Request

Professor Loftis,
Your records request is ready.  The final bill is $48.  Please make the check out to the City of Lorain
You can pick up the request from out records division.

Captain Michael Failing
Lorain Police Department


Sent: Sat 7/13/2019 5:21 PM

Chief Failing, 

Thank you for your reply. Section (B)(6) of the Ohio Public Records Act (149.43) says I can request the format of the records are duplicated in and gives a range of options. One of the options is "the same medium upon which the public office or person responsible for the public record keeps it." I assume you keep your records electronically, so I would like to request .pdf copies of your documents. 

Also, I assume your request for a fee to receive these records is based on Section (B)(1) of the act, which says you are to make copies the records available "at cost." I do not believe that the cost of emailing .pdf files should add anything to the $48 you are already charging me. 

Thank you very much for your time 



Sent: Wed 7/17/2019 2:20 PM

Prof Loftis,

The records you requested are stored in paper copy.  The your request is completed and available in our records department for you to pick up.

Captain Michael Failing
Lorain Police Department


Captain Failing,

Are the records *only* kept as paper copies?

I've received records from your office in .pdf form before, including your current Use of Force Policy and your response to the 2012 Justice Department report on your department. I don't understand why, in 2019, a government office would keep public records in paper form only. 

The Ohio Public Records act (Ohio Revised Code Section 149.43) says I can request documents in electronic form, and you are only supposed to charge me for the cost of reproducing the documents. The ACLU of Ohio has plenty of information online about how I am supposed to request these records and you are required to respond.

So again, I'm asking, if any copies of these records exist in electronic form, please send them to me as .pdf files. 


Update: this is the last email I received from Captain Failing. A person at the ACLU who has been kindly advising me says that this believable, given her experience with police record systems, and since they aren't required to create a new record, this is a legitimate response.

Professor Loftis,

The Lorain Police Department has thousands of reports per year in our database.  There is no way to determine whether a report involved a use of force which is specifically what you requested.  The only way I am able to complete your request is my office maintains a paper file of every use of force.  That is how I compiled your requested data.

The reports are still available in our records department.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Letter to Councilperson Baker about the most recent suicide attempt at the jail

Councilperson Baker,

Another inmate has attempted suicide at the Cuyahoga County Jail and is now on life-support ( There is a chance that he will become the tenth death at the jail in little over a year. Last year 69 inmates attempted suicide last year, which is about triple the number that attempted suicide in 2016, according to (

The county has put itself in the horrific position of actually having an incentive to make staying in the jail as traumatic as possible. As in many places, most cases in Cuyahoga Cuyahoga county are decided by plea bargain. As one judge told Sarah Koenig of the Serial podcast, “plea bargaining isn't part of the criminal justice system, it is the criminal justice system” ( The prosecutor stacks on charges with the goal of inducing the suspect to plead guilty to a lesser charge. (One might say “coercing” the suspect to plead guilty.) Suspects are far more likely to accept this kind of bargain if they are stuck in a jail that is tormenting them psychologically.

A lot of factors are causing the spike in suicide attempts and deaths at the county jail. There is the practice of overcharging. There is the practice of asking for unreasonably high amounts of cash bail. And there is also just plain old corruption: Someone is making money smuggling drugs into the jail and selling them to addicts who overdose and are left to die on the floor by the guards. I’m certain you’ve seen the video of the death of Joseph Arquillo in the jail ( Maybe you should watch it again.

Cuyahoga County switched to a form of government that includes a county council, the goal was to stop exactly this sort of corruption. That means dealing with this is your job.

Rob Loftis   

Thursday, May 02, 2019

On a Quote Attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King

"Every condition exists because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum." -- Rev. James Bevel (probably)
On page 305 of Matthew Desmond's amazing book, Evicted he gives the above quote and attributes it to Martin Luther King. If you look at his footnote, though, he is citing a secondary source. Given that King is a magnet for misattributed quotes, I decided to look this one up. It turns out it is from "A Proposal by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the Development of a Nonviolent Action Movement for the Greater Chicago Area," which is just what it says it is, a planning document for the Chicago Freedom Movement. I can't find a facsimile of the original document, but this is a .pdf version of that that was created for educational purposes. The .pdf has typos, but I'm not sure if they are carried over from the original or introduced.

The document is unsigned, at least in the form I found it, But according to this site and this footnote and a few other things like that, the document was drawn up by Rev. James Bevel. Bevel isn't a really good name to put with a powerful quote you want to use to motivate action. Later in life, Bevel became a LaRouchie and was revealed to be a pedophile who molested his daughter. I suppose if I were to use the quote in an inspirational context, I might just attribute it to the SCLC.

In any case, I spent 45 minutes trying to track down the quote, so I thought I'd put information out her in a form that Google can index to spare other people the trouble. Real scholars of the Civil Rights era I'm sure have more detailed information, but none of that comes up easily on Google right now.

(Actually, I'm a little miffed that there isn't a facsimile version of this document available on line. You can get a facsimile of a Plato manuscript from 895 but you can't get a facsimile of an SCLC document from 1966?)