Over 300 undercover LAPD officers slap city with lawsuit after public records request puts them at risk

Over 300 officers with the Los Angeles Police Department have filed suit against the city and their employers after a public records request placed them, and in turn the city, at grave risk in the name of “radical transparency.”

(Video: KTLA)

Tuesday, attorneys representing 321 undercover LAPD officers announced the suit after the identity of their clients, including photos, were published online.

“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,” attorney Matthew McNicholas said as part of the 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,” he added. “They need to face responsibility for their catastrophic negligence.”

As it happened, the LAPD had released the images of uncover officers, as well as those intermittently assigned to Gangs, Narcotics, Trafficking and Vice, with photos of over 9,000 officers when a journalist for nonprofit newsroom Knock LA submitted a public records request.

Following receipt of the information, activist group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition took the data and images and published them in a publicly searchable database called “Watch the Watchers.”

Hamid Khan, a coordinator with the group, reportedly pushed back on the lawsuit calling it an “assault on people’s rights to access” information needed for accountability, according to the LA Times. Khan’s group, the outlet said “wants to abolish traditional law enforcement but in the interim has pushed for what it calls radical transparency.”

Even Democratic Mayor Karen Bass recognized the danger and called the exposure, “an unacceptable breach that puts the lives of our officers and their families at risk,” adding, “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.”

According to McNicholas and fellow attorneys Greg Smith and Jacob Kalinski, the how stemmed from the city “ultimately incorrectly [including] undercover active-duty police officers and officers with prior undercover assignments,” when responding to the records request, allegedly without LAPD Chief Michel Moore’s knowledge.

During a press conference last month, Moore had said, “We erred in the sense that there’s photographs that are in there that should not have been in there. Now … that ship has sailed.”

As a result, numerous undercover operations throughout the city had to be canceled to protect the safety of the officers, and some, McNicholas said, even had to move to protect their families.

“Will the city provide a service or money to scrub from the internet when these things keep popping up?” officers have repeatedly asked the attorney. In response he has told them,”I don’t know what the city is willing to do.”

However, that was reported as a stated objective of the lawsuit in seeking a means to remedy the situation, along with ensuring that it can never happen again.


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Kevin Haggerty


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