Undercover cops say the cover has been blown by public records

Undercover officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) are suing both the department and the city after their information was released via a public record request to a local news outlet.

Watchdog group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition released the names and photos of more than 9,300 officers to a database last month after a reporter for Los Angeles-based outlet Knock LA requested a recording. Undercover officers identified hundreds of the officers in the database, although the database does not identify them as such.

Stop LAPD Spying is a group that is pushing for radical transparency through the LAPD and is trying to “build community power to end police surveillance,” according to its website. The group publishes reports of Los Angeles police surveillance and use of technology. Knock LA recently published a series of articles about suspected gangs within the Los Angeles police force.

When the database was released late last month, the police union released a relatively benign statement expressing dissatisfaction at not being informed of the disclosure before the names were released.

However, officials within the police department revealed that not only were undercover officers included in the data, but that their release was an accident. The resulting consequences of the revelation have been going on for weeks.

Undercover police officers’ names can usually be withheld during public-record requests, and the lawsuit alleges that the City of Los Angeles submitted information about LAPD officers to two public-record requests but failed to provide the names, photographs and Remove undercover officers’ identifying information.

A total of 321 unnamed officials are suing the city and police through private attorneys. The union, which represents LAPD officers, also filed a lawsuit, urging the police chief and the city to stop the publication and remove the undercover officer’s names and photos. It’s unclear whether the LAPD can achieve this retrospectively, as any attempt by the department to reverse the release of information already released will carry strong First Amendment legal protections.

Officers were not informed in advance that their information would be disclosed and some officers have already been threatened and have had to relocate, according to their lawyer.

“The City of Los Angeles’ reckless release of the identities of undercover officers is causing irreparable harm to these individuals – their lives, careers and ongoing investigations are at risk,” said Matthew McNicholas, one of the attorneys representing the undercover officers, in a press release. “The City of Los Angeles and LAPD have a duty of care to their employees and should have taken reasonable precautions to ensure this never happened. They must accept responsibility for their catastrophic negligence.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass tweeted that the disclosure was “unacceptable.”

“I expect there is a full account of how this happened and a clear plan to prevent such an incident from happening again,” she wrote.

The police union and the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition did not respond to requests for comment from the Daily Dot.

This post and headline have been updated.


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*Initial publication: April 5, 2023 3:33 pm CDT

Jacob Seitz

Jacob Seitz is a freelance journalist originally from Columbus, Ohio, interested in the intersection of culture and politics.

Jacob Seitz

Jaclyn Diaz

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