Nearly 700 undercover Los Angeles Police Department officers sued the city Tuesday, alleging their safety was impacted by the release of department photographs and personal information earlier this year through the California Public Records Act.
Lawyers representing the 691 LAPD undercover officers sued in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying the city and the department “negligently” released personal information that was subsequently posted on various websites.
Undercover LAPD officers’ names, photos, and other personal information were released to the public, and put the lives of those officers and their investigations at risk, according to the complaint. The lawsuit demands accountability and safeguards, according to a joint statement from the various plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“We tried to engage the city of Los Angeles to stanch the damage caused by their reckless production of undercover officers’ personal identities, but because of their failure to face responsibility and put the appropriate safeguards in place, we are now pursuing this through litigation,” attorney Matthew McNicholas said in a statement. “To this day, criminal elements continue to use this information to track, follow and harass these police officers. Their lives, carer and ongoing investigations to protect the public are at risk, and we demand the city of L.A. take action.”
A representative for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The case stemmed from California Public Records Act requests made to the LAPD, which the department initially refused to comply with.
The city of Los Angeles subsequently responded to these requests, but incorrectly included sensitive information about active-duty undercover police officers and officers with prior undercover assignments in its disclosure.
The data, which included officers’ names, photographs, email addresses, phone numbers, serial numbers, ethnicities, genders, ranks and more, was published on the “Watch the Watchers” website — a searchable database created by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore previously stated he was unaware of the release, and later issued an apology and launched an internal investigation. According to a statement from the plaintiffs’ lawyers, it is believed that the commanding officer of constitutional policy and policing allowed the release to go forward without Moore’s knowledge.
The release of the photos, particularly of undercover officers, led to an uproar in the department and prompted an apology from Chief Michel Moore. Mayor Karen Bass has also decried the release of information about undercover officers.
Last week, attorney Abel Nair filed a lawsuit against the city and department on behalf of 140 current or retired plaintiffs on the same grounds.