Lodi News-Sentinel

Release of undercover LAPD officers’ photos to be investigat­ed

- Richard Winton and Libor Jany

LOS ANGELES — The Office of the Inspector General will investigat­e LAPD Chief Michel Moore and the department’s constituti­onal policing director over the disclosure of photos of thousands of officers, including those who work undercover.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Police Commission, Moore said he had issued “deep apologies” for the way many officers first learned of the photos, which were released in response to a California Public Records Act request. Moore said officers should have been made aware in advance that the photos would be published on an advocacy group’s public website.

But he told the commission he was more concerned that images of officers on sensitive assignment­s were released, because of potential threats to their safety.

“They are involved in criminal investigat­ions involving drug cartels, violent street organizati­ons, in which their identity to court oversight and constituti­on is masked,” he said. Moore conceded that the disclosure “poses a risk to them,” noting the widespread availabili­ty of facial-recognitio­n technology.

The controvers­y began Friday with the launch of a searchable online database, Watch the Watchers. The site published photos of more than 9,300 Los Angeles Police Department officers, complete with name, ethnicity, rank, date of hire, division/bureau and badge number. The site was created by the technology watchdog group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which called the effort the first of its kind in the United States.

Moore said that upon learning of the site, he immediatel­y launched an internal investigat­ion. But after the Los Angeles Police Protective League filed a complaint against him and Liz Rhodes, the LAPD’s constituti­onal policing director, Moore asked the inspector general to take over the probe to avoid a conflict of interest, he said.

The episode has prompted questions about transparen­cy and the department’s ability to balance the public’s right to officer informatio­n against potential safety concerns.

The chief said he has taken steps to address the fears of those whose photos were released, including working with the undercover officers “to understand what steps can be taken to protect their identity.”

Moore said he aims to discover who reviewed and authorized the photos’ release in order to prevent it from happening again. However, he said, the city attorney has determined that the department was legally required to turn over the images under the Public Records Act.

“We will look to what steps or added steps can be taken to safeguard the personal identifier­s of our membership,” he said.

Department officials have not said whether the release has compromise­d any current investigat­ions.

Commission­er Maria Lou Calanche said she welcomed the inspector general’s investigat­ion and wants the results made public.

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