LAPD officers walking outside

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Over 300 LAPD officers sue after anti-police surveillance group posts names of undercover officers

over 300 undercover police officers are suing after their names were accidentally released.

 

Jacob Seitz

Tech

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

Watchdog group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition posted the names and photos of more than 9,300 officers last month in a database following a records request by a reporter for the Los Angeles-based outlet Knock LA. Undercover officers made up hundreds of the officers in the database, though the database does not label them as such.

Stop LAPD Spying is a group pushing for radical transparency by the LAPD, attempting to “build community power toward abolishing police surveillance,” according to their website. The group publishes reports surrounding surveillance and the use of technology by police in Los Angeles. Knock LA has recently done a number of pieces about alleged gangs within police forces in and around Los Angeles.

When the database was published late last month, the police union released a relatively tame statement expressing dissatisfaction that it was not notified about the disclosure before the names were released.

However, officials inside the police department revealed that not only were undercover officers included in the data, but that their release was an accident. The resulting fallout from the revelation has been going on for weeks.

The names of undercover police officers can typically be withheld from public records requests, and the lawsuit alleges the City of Los Angeles produced information about LAPD officers for two public records requests but failed to remove the names, photos, and identifying information of the undercover officers.

Altogether, 321 unnamed officers are suing the city and police department through private attorneys. The union that represents LAPD officers also filed a lawsuit demanding the Chief of Police and the city take action against the publication to remove the undercover officer’s names and photos. It’s unclear whether the LAPD can achieve that retroactively, as any attempt by the department to reverse the release of already published information is sure to be met with strong First Amendment legal protections. 

Officers were given no advance notice that their information would be disclosed, and some officers have already faced threats and have had to move, according to their lawyer.

“The City of Los Angeles’ reckless production of the undercover officers’ identities does irreparable damage to these individuals—their lives, careers, and ongoing investigations are at risk,” said Matthew McNicholas, one of the lawyers 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 had appropriate safeguards in place to ensure nothing like this ever happened. They need to face responsibility for their catastrophic negligence.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the disclosure “unacceptable” in a tweet.

“I expect there to be a full accounting of how this happened and a clear plan to prevent this sort of incident from happening again,” she wrote.

The police union and 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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