LOS ANGELES – The identities of hundreds of undercover LAPD personnel were “negligently” released and ended up on anti-cop websites, which has now led to a lawsuit filed against the City of Los Angeles and the police department.
LAPD was compelled to disclose names, badge numbers, and photos of more than 9,000 officers, except for those assigned to specialized units as a result of a demand via the California Public Records Act. The initial request came from a citizen journalist, Law Officer reported in March.
Although LAPD was not supposed to release the names of undercover personnel or those involved in sensitive positions, the agency carelessly included the identifying information as well as images of personnel working undercover assignments, which was a major gaffe, officials acknowledged.
“We made a mistake. We made a big mistake,” Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore told FOX 11 Los Angeles during an interview shortly after the faux pas was made.
“I deeply regret that this mistake happened. I understand personally, given my own death threats and on matters of me as a public figure and my family has endured as a chief and even before that, how troubling this can be to a member of this organization, and even more so to those that are involved in sensitive and or confidential investigations,” Moore said.
More than 300 police personnel were improperly impacted and took legal action in April, alleging the city “incorrectly produced the complete roster of LAPD officers, including current undercover officers and officers with previous undercover assignments” when asked for information as a result of two California Public Records Act requests, the Post Millennial reported.
“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,” said Matthew McNicholas, an attorney whose firm is representing 321 undercover LAPD officers whose personal information was compromised.
“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. They need to face responsibility for their catastrophic negligence.”
Following the breach of confidentiality, Chief Moore launched an investigation into the matter.
“We have people who have taken the list and are now criminally, we believe, making threats against the safety of officers, calling for a bounty and awarding a bounty for individuals who would go out and kill a cop,” Moore explained.
“Two things that we’ve messed up on. One, we should have told our people when we reached a settlement and we should have told them the basis for it,” said Moore. “Secondly, when we provided the list, we made a mistake in that we did not identify all the individuals in the organization who were involved in sensitive undercover investigations that should have been kept from them.”
“I’ll stand by what I’ve said. I have no reason to lie. I believe when you when we mess up, we need to own it,” said Moore.
“Owning it” has not appeased rank and file officers. Many are fuming. Detective Jamie McBride said, “This is serious. This is not a mistake. This is reckless.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPD officers’ union) filed a complaint against Chief Moore and a police administrator for the release of that information, according to McBride.
Independent journalist Ben Camacho filed the first CPRA request in October 2021. Initially, LAPD refused to comply given the scope of the information being sought.
As a result, Camacho took legal action, and eventually, Deputy City Attorney Hasmik Badalian Collins signed off on the release of headshots of all active-duty LAPD officers.
However, when the city fulfilled the request, it “incorrectly produced the complete roster of LAPD officers, including current undercover officers and officers with previous undercover assignments.”
In December 2022, another CPRA request was made by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. This request sought even more information, such as officers’ names, serial numbers, ethnicities and ranks. The city complied, and the details were released, again “wrongfully” including undercover officers, the Post Millennial reported.
The information soon appeared on watchthewatchers.net and killercop.com, two prominent anti-police websites.
Three officers whose details ended up on killercop.com sued the man behind the website alongside their union, the LAPPL, alleging he inflicted “intentional” emotional distress and endangered their lives, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
“He essentially put a bounty on the lives of police officers,” attorney Jacob Kalinski said. “My clients, they go to bed at night and they’re in fear for their safety. It is the goal of this lawsuit to have Mr. Sutcliffe’s threats removed from Twitter or from wherever else so that there are no individuals out there who act upon (his) promise to pay people essentially to kill police officers.”
Steven Sutcliffe is the man behind killercop.com. He has since had his Twitter (X) account removed, yet the site remains active as of the date of this publication.