Late last month, the Los Angeles Police Department released images and personal information of more than 9,300 officers, including those undercover, at the request of a journalist working with the nonprofit journalism project Knock LA.
Following the release of the records, the activist group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition quickly turned the photos into a public website called “Watch the Watchers.” The site, which is still available to the public, allows anyone to search for any LAPD officer by name or serial number. Upon searching, users will find any officer’s ethnicity, rank, date of hire, division/bureau, photo, and email. Along with that information, the site claims to have filed a public records request with the LAPD to “obtain badge numbers, along with payroll information, disciplinary records and more.”
An LAPD officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke about the incident, stating, “I think that’s an invasion of privacy. Why should we have to disclose that information if most other professions don’t have to? The more information they release on us the easier it’ll be for us to be found off duty… I do believe there are certain things that should be public, as long as it’s within reason, cops already have a target on them this is just making it easier for the people that want to hurt us.”
The union that represents Los Angeles Police sued LAPD Chief Michel Moore, forcing the department to stop making officers’ photos public, especially undercover officers. However, all the information was given out under the California Public Records Act.
Legal counsel for the Los Angeles Police Protective League announced last week that the union will ask a judge to temporarily shut down the “Watch the Watchers” website until it determines which officers’ images should be excluded for obvious security reasons. Since the website’s launch, several social media accounts have used LAPD images and set bounties on officers.
Hamid Khan is a coordinator with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition; he has called the lawsuit an “assault on people’s rights to access information necessary to hold the LAPD accountable.” The organization works to build community power toward abolishing police surveillance.
“I believe Khan is no good, the disclosure of information is putting people (officers) at risk. Surveillance on the street is the total opposite. The information being gathered is to keep people safe. Cops aren’t going around conducting surveillance on your everyday working bee, if you’re under our radar it’s probably because you haven’t been behaving,” said an anonymous LAPD officer.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore stated he has taken steps to address the officer safety concerns while admitting to making a mistake in not advising the department that information would be released. “We erred in the sense that there’s photographs that are in there that should not have been in there,” Moore said in an interview late last month.
“I had no idea our information was going to be released, I found out through an email that was sent by our league,” said an anonymous LAPD officer.