Undercover Officers File Claims Against City, LAPD Over Data Release

Police Car in LA

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - More than 300 Los Angeles Police Department undercover officers whose personal information was released and posted on various websites -- including one that allegedly listed bounties for the killing of officers -- announced the filing of damages claims against the city and LAPD leadership Tuesday.

"This presents a significant threat to the safety of the citizens of Los Angeles," attorney Matthew McNicholas told reporters at a Westwood news conference announcing the claims, which are precursors to lawsuits.

"I can tell you without (revealing) detail that several undercover operations have had to stop and several undercover (officers) have been threatened with direct threat based on this release, requiring them and their families to move."

The claims, which seek unspecified damages, allege violations including negligence, negligent training and supervision, breach of contract, legal malpractice, violation of right to privacy and public disclosure of private facts.

According to McNicholas, the claims were filed on behalf of 321 undercover officers whose personal information was released.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the department's rank and file officers, blasted the LAPD last week for releasing the pictures, names, work locations and other information of some 9,000 officers following a California Public Records Act request filed by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.

That included officers who work in sensitive and undercover operations -- a release the department has dubbed a mistake and prompted an apology from Chief Michel Moore.

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition had filed a public records lawsuit against the city, challenging what it called the LAPD's refusal to release basic personnel information on officers. The coalition also launched "Watch the Watchers," a website that publishes head shots and other information related to sworn personnel.

"Watch the Watchers" did not list bounties on officers -- but the website killercop.com did, according to a lawsuit filed last week by the LAPPL on behalf of three officers.

In addition, attorneys for the LAPPL last week served a cease-and- desist notice on Twitter and Google, seeking the immediate removal of the "killer cop" website from the platforms. Twitter subsequently suspended the account for violating its rules and policies against inciting violence against police officers. The "killer cop" website, meanwhile, is now inactive.

Tom Saggau, a spokesman for LAPPL, said the union's lawsuit is not against the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, but against the owner of the "killer cop" website and the Twitter account @killercops1984.

The lawsuit names Steven William Sutcliffe, described as "a user of the website Twitter, and utilizes the username KILLERCOP1984."

Sutcliffe told the Los Angeles Times the lawsuit is "malicious. It's retaliatory. It is vindictive and frivolous. Their motion is filled with lies. They are trying to silence my free speech. The truth cannot be retaliatory. It is 1st Amendment protected speech."

Meanwhile, Jamie McBride, the LAPPL director, told City News Service, "We're looking into all websites to see legally what we can do. However, the `killer cop' website was of the utmost importance to our membership and for officers' safety."

Last week, Moore said he was not initially aware of the release. He later issued an apology and started an investigation.

However, the Inspector General's office stepped in and began its own probe after the LAPPL filed an internal affairs misconduct complaint against Moore and city personnel involved in the release of police officers' information.

"He knew or should have known that this was occurring, and the same thing for (LAPD administrative officer) Liz Rhodes," McBride said of Moore. "If he acted alone, or if she notified the chief, both of them are responsible for the release of these photos.

"Once we find out exactly who was in charge, or who was reckless enough to release these photos, we're going to ask those individuals to be removed from office because they jeopardized a lot of people's safety, including families."

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