LOS ANGELES, CA — The Los Angeles Police Department scrambled to save investigations and undercover officers this week after their names and photos were turned over to a police surveillance group and posted online.
Now the head of the department and the director of constitutional police are under investigation by SNAFU, the Los Angeles Times reported.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore offered his “deep apologies” to the undercover officers, who were not given advance notice of the disclosure, during a police commission meeting Tuesday.
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition watchdog group posted information and photos of more than 9,300 officers last Friday to a searchable online database. The group had attended a public records request from a reporter for the progressive news outlet Knock LA.
A spokesperson for the LAPD Spying Coalition told Patch the department needed to protect the identities of undercover officers because the coalition has no way of knowing which officers are undercover.
“We released images that were thoroughly vetted by the department. They came through the city attorney’s office and the LAPD itself,” said Hamid Khan, a spokesman for the LAPD Spy Coalition. “We wouldn’t know who was undercover.”
The group posted the names, photos, ethnicities and serial numbers of more than 9,300 LAPD officers in an effort to help the community hold public servants accountable for their behavior on the job, Khan said.
“LAPD are notorious for refusing to identify themselves when questioned, and under California law, they are supposed to,” he added. “A lot of times they cover their badges and nameplates as well.”
He pointed to several protests dating back to the massive George Floyd demonstrations in 2020, when unidentifiable officers dressed in riot gear were filmed pushing or punching peaceful protesters.
The database includes information on each officer, including name, ethnicity, rank, date of hire, badge number, and division or office. It was not immediately clear how many of the officers listed were undercover.
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition opposes the collection of police intelligence, saying the database should be used for “counter-surveillance.”
“You can use it to identify officers causing harm in your community,” the group wrote. “The police have a wealth of information about all of us at their fingertips, but they move in secret.”
The department’s release of the names and photos of the undercover agents went unnoticed, the Times reported. Although the city attorney’s office determined that the agency was legally required to turn over the records under California law, exemptions are often made for security or investigative reasons.
“We will look at what steps or additional steps can be taken to safeguard our membership’s personal identifiers,” Moore said Tuesday.
Police officials say the photos in the database present security risks for officers who are currently undercover, as well as those who might work in that capacity in the future.
Knock LA reporter Ben Camacho tweeted that he filed the records request as well as a lawsuit last year to obtain the photographs. The department had not previously raised the issue of the officers’ safety in arguing against their release, he said.
“The only officers they are excluding from disclosure are undercover officers, as expected,” a deputy city attorney wrote in a 2022 email to Camacho’s lawyer, according to a screenshot the reporter posted online.
The department’s inspector general launched the investigation into Moore and constitutional police director Liz Rhodes after the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, filed a misconduct complaint against them. on Monday.
The chairman of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners this week expressed his frustration with the situation.
“I have to tell you that I am extremely concerned, disturbed and upset as I sit here today,” William Briggs said during Tuesday’s Police Commission meeting.
Briggs suggested that the organization’s action was taken to cause harm to the officers and their families. He also asked Moore to report back to the executive committee with responses to better protect the information and legal rights of LAPD officers.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Maria Lou Calanche has asked Moore to bring a report on how the LAPD responds to public records requests, saying she wants to better understand the process.
“We need a new policy regarding the release of this information and I ask that you speak with the Office of Constitutional Oversight to propose new policies regarding the release of any information involving an LAPD officer or employee,” Briggs said.
Moore said the information was released months ago through California Public Records Law requests.
“Steps have already been taken to address the issues you’ve identified,” Moore said. “First, an effort to reach out to all employees, and second, for those involved who are working on a sensitive task, we work with them to understand what steps can be taken to protect their identity.”
Associated Press, City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.