When the Center for Open Policing reached a settlement with the city of Seattle that won it more than $30,000 and access to GPS data on the location of police vehicles, it was the latest in a string of legal victories for a group headed by three activists that has filed suits over access to public records and strategically rolled the resulting financial victories into its work, reports the Seattle Times. The group is run by Eric Rachner, 39; Phil Mocek, 41, and Ben Livingston, 36, who are are computer-software whizzes whose personal brushes with the law fueled their efforts and led them to join forces in 2012.
They say they are not anti-police and are motivated by a desire to keep public-record requirements strong, hold government officials accountable and shed light on police business and bad cops. “All officers aren't bad,” says Livingston. “Most, the vast majority of police officers, are good at their job and they try really hard and we really need them and really want them. And then there's a handful of people that seem to get a lot of citizen complaints.” Livingston said his longtime work as a cannabis activist and various police encounters have influenced his efforts. A 2012 traffic citation for using a cellphone landed him in the public-records arena. The ticket was upheld, but he won a $23,000 settlement in a public-records lawsuit brought by the Center for Open Policing against the State Patrol over the denial of patrol-car video he sought in his case.