Over 300 undercover police officers are reportedly suing the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after their identities were released to a watchdog group who leaked them online.
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, a watchdog group that claims to be “building power toward abolition of the police state,” leaked the personal information and photographs of more than 9,300 LAPD officers in a searchable online database, hundreds of whom were undercover police officers, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
While the city attorney’s office has maintained the agency was required to turn over records of the law enforcement officers, which includes a photograph and information on each officer, California law makes exemptions for safety or investigative reasons, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Data Breach Potentially Exposed Private Info Of Lawmakers And Staff, Official Says)
Hundreds of undercover cops prepare to sue. They will be seeking damages for Los Angeles Police Department’s alleged “negligent, improper and malicious” public release of their names, photos and other identifying info. @liborjany @LAcrimes @latimes https://t.co/9VOsxLei8k
— Meg James (@MegJamesLAT) April 4, 2023
Attorney Matthew McNicholas, who is representing more than 321 undercover officers, claimed that an exemption should have been made in the case of his clients who rely on anonymity to do their jobs. Not only do his clients now fear for the safety of themselves and their families, McNicholas stated that several investigations into gangs, drugs and sex traffickers have had to be stopped since the leak, AP reported.
McNicholas added that his clients can no longer work as undercover police officers and might not be able to work in any policing capacity going forward because of, what he has deemed negligent, disclosure.
The lawsuits filed with McNicholas follow separate lawsuits filed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents the department’s rank-and-file officers. The union has sued Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore in an attempt to “claw back” the photographs of undercover officers and prevent similar leaks from happening in the future.
“We erred in the sense that there’s photographs that are in there that should not have been in there,” Moore conceded of the leak, AP reported, citing a report by the Los Angeles Times.
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition describes its searchable database, entitled “Watch the Watchers,” as a “community resource that indexes LAPD’s official records of its officers, all of which LAPD made public through California Public Records Act requests.” The watchdog group has dismissed arguments that they have released “private data,” maintaining that policing should not be “shrouded in secrecy.”