In a still-unfolding drama that has reached its top ranks, the Los Angeles Police Department accidentally released the names and photos of numerous undercover officers to a watchdog group that posted them on its website. The controversy began late last week when the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition launched a searchable online database — called Watch the Watchers — of more than 9,300 city police officers’ photos, complete with their names, ethnicity, rank, date of hire, division/bureau and badge numbers. The group called the site the first of its kind in the country. The Associated Press has the story:
LA undercover police names, photos are online
The Los Angeles police chief and the department’s constitutional policing director are under investigation after the names and photographs of undercover officers were released to a technology watchdog group that posted them online, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The watchdog group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition posted more than 9,300 officers’ information and photographs Friday in a searchable online database, the Times reported, following a public records request by a reporter for progressive news outlet Knock LA.
The database includes information on each officer including name, ethnicity, rank, date of hire, badge number and division or bureau. It was not immediately clear how many of the officers listed were undercover.
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition opposes police intelligence-gathering and says the database should be used for “countersurveillance.”
“You can use it to identify officers who are causing harm in your community” the group wrote. “Police have vast information about all of us at their fingertips, yet they move in secrecy.”
The department’s release of the undercover officers’ names and photographs was inadvertent, the Times reported. While the city attorney’s office determined the agency was legally required to turn over the records under California law, exemptions are often made for safety or investigative reasons.
“We will look to what steps or added steps can be taken to safeguard the personal identifiers of our membership,” Moore said Tuesday.
Police officials say the database’s photos pose safety risks to officers who are currently undercover, as well as those who might work in that capacity in the future.
The Knock LA reporter, Ben Camacho, tweeted that he filed the records request as well as a lawsuit last year to get the photographs. The department had not previously raised the issue of officer safety in arguing against their release, he said.
“The only officers they are excluding from disclosure are undercover officers, which is expected,” a deputy city attorney wrote in a 2022 email to Camacho’s attorney, according to a screenshot the journalist posted online.
The department’s inspector general launched the investigation into Moore and constitutional policing director Liz Rhodes after the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, filed a misconduct complaint against them Monday.