LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 300 undercover Los Angeles police officers filed legal claims against the city and police department on Tuesday. Their names and photos They were released to a tech watchdog team that posted online.
The watchdog group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition last month posted information and photos of more than 9,300 officers in a searchable online database. Hundreds of undercover officers are included in the database, although the exact number is unknown, and the database does not specify which officers work undercover.
The officers were not given advance notice of the disclosure, and the backlash rocked the department. The inspector general is investigating Chief Michelle Moore and the agency’s constitutional police director, Liz Rhodes, after the officers’ association filed a misconduct complaint.
Although the city attorney’s office ruled that the agency is legally required to hand over the records — including a photograph and information on each officer, including name, race, rank, date of hire, badge number and department or office — under California law, exemptions are often made for security or investigative reasons.
The Stop LAPD surveillance coalition opposes police data collection and says the database should be used for “counter-surveillance.”
Attorney Matthew McNicholas said 321 undercover officers filed legal claims that led to lawsuits by the bureau, and more are expected to be filed. The officers’ names are not listed in court documents.
“Only time will tell,” McNicholas said at a news conference Tuesday when he announced the records.
The claims seek negligence and unspecified damages. The plaintiffs say they can no longer work as undercover officers and, at times, never work as police officers at all.
McNicholas said clients fear for their safety — as well as their families — and want to know the city is protecting them. He said he was aware of several investigations of undercover officers that had been halted following revelations about gangs, drug and sex-trafficking. He would not give further details.
Tuesday’s claims follow separate lawsuits filed last month by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents the department’s rank and file officers. The union sued the police chief for secretly “snapping” the officers’ photos and preventing further disclosure.
“We were wrong because the photographs were not supposed to be in there,” Moore said. Los Angeles Times,which first reported the disclosure. “Now… that ship has sailed.”
Department spokesman Officer Jeff Lee said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.