Finding and thanking a prosecutor and officer
December 1, 2016 10:32 AM   Subscribe

How do I find details on a decades-old felony case and then thank the prosecutor and officer?

About fifteen years ago, my mother and I were robbed while walking to a bus stop at night. She was then raped while I was held at knifepoint. It's reasonable to say that the responding officer saved our lives, and the public prosecutor gave us some peace of mind during that time. I've since lost all details of the case besides the jurisdiction of the officer (somewhere in L.A. County) and where the case was at; I was a minor at the time, so I was entered in as a John Doe, while she (perfectly understandably) doesn't recall anything else about it. (Assume that I won't be asking my mom for a helping hand here.)

For all intents and purposes, the case, insofar as it's possible, was "anonymous," and I only have the blurrest of details to go off of. I had always wanted to thank both individuals for what they did that night, so my question here is two-fold:

Is there any way I can contact the court system and/or the P.D. to find out the names of these people? (Again, I just have the vaguest physical hints.) Where would I begin to look? Both city and county records are probably gigantic, but I have the time (though tips would greatly help); my concern is more if those records would be sealed and otherwise unavailable to the public.

If I do manage to find who both were, would it be out-of-bounds of professional and social etiquette to thank them (card and chocolates, say)? I understand that it was their job to do what they did in that day and in those weeks, but I want to let them know that what they did was meaningful to me, even years out. In my mind I'd send it to the office, but is this out-of-bounds as well?

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you can recall an approximate date that will help a lot. You and your mom should be listed as witnesses at the very least. LA County will have a way to look up cases. A lot of places have those records online now, but there are also a lot where you still have to visit the county courthouse and sometimes pay a fee.

There is a pretty strong chance that one or both of them have moved on to other jobs by now, but I doubt they would be upset to receive a note of thanks from you.
posted by wierdo at 10:47 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Call the county court clerk (or go down there if you have time. I've gone to my county court to search for cases; even the older ones are searchable on microfiche.)

I can't imagine why it would be out of bounds to thank them. Once you have their names you can probably find them on Linkedin to see where they are now and how to contact them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:51 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

File a request for records of the case with the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to the California Public Records Act. From the LAPD's FAQ on this process:
the report of crimes and incidents written in the course of business of a law enforcement agency are public records and subject to release under CPRA with some exemptions....

Any person can make a Public Records request.

However public disclosure is regulated by several different statutes dependent upon on the record....

A public records request for information from the Los Angeles Police Department can be started by contacting the Los Angeles Police Department Discovery Section at 213-978-2100.

You will want to include the following information to ensure the scope of the request is understood and clear enough for personnel to determine if we have the records you are requesting.

• The date(s) of the record
• The subject of the record
• A clear and specific description of the record
• Any additional information that helps staff identify the record
• Your complete contact information, so that we may notify you when your request is available

Prompt access to public records is required by the CPRA (Government Code 6253).
posted by John Cohen at 11:26 AM on December 1, 2016

Since you asked, I'm going to just note that sending chocolates feels a bit off to me in this situation, and if I were the prosecutor or officer, I would probably think that's a little strange. I think just a note is best.
posted by holborne at 11:44 AM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanking them long after the fact is entirely acceptable and will likely come as a pleasant surprise to people whose work can be thankless. Stick to words though, chocolates are not the right fit for this kind of communication.

Sending your note to their current office is appropriate; don't seek out their home addresses. If they are retired, the office they retired from can forward it to them.
posted by headnsouth at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

I used to work in law enforcement and often think of the people that I helped. I'd be very touched to receive a note from a citizen from my past. It's a very considerate gesture.
posted by jennstra at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2016

Given the nature of their positions, I doubt that either of them would (or should) eat or drink anything that was sent to them at work. I bet that a card or note with sincere thanks would mean more to them.
posted by amicamentis at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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