LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Another large group of Los Angeles police officers with sensitive assignments has taken legal action against the city, alleging their safety was impacted by the release of department photographs earlier this year through the California Public Records Act.
Prior to the department making the photos available, the officers went to great lengths to keep their identities concealed, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of more than 140 current or retired plaintiffs identified only as Jane and John Does.
"Due to the photo release, plaintiffs now reasonably fear retribution from these criminals which may involve harassment, intimidation, injury and/or death to themselves and their families," the suit states.
The plaintiffs have all performed undercover operations and/or plain clothes surveillance, according to the suit, which alleges negligence and failure to perform mandatory duties. The plaintiffs seek economic and emotional distress damages, plus attorneys' fees and costs. A representative for the City Attorney's Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The lawsuit follows the announcement in April of a group of more than 300 similar plaintiffs who filed government claims against the city as forerunners to a lawsuit.
The LAPD released the officers' images through a CPRA through a request by a Knock LA journalist. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, an activist group, then put the photos and other information of about 9,000 officers into a publicly accessible database in March.
According to the current lawsuit, the officers serve in or were previously assigned to such units as the Major Crimes Division, the ATF Gun Violence Reduction Task Force, the Gangs and Narcotics Division and human trafficking.
"Plaintiffs performed a variety of different covert roles for the department, often working extremely dangerous operations involving the most dangerous criminals, leading to the interference with lucrative schemes and/or arrests and prison sentences," the suit states.
Criminals knew what the officers looked like either through personal interactions or video surveillance, but did not know that they were police officers, according to the suit.
Many of the criminals that the officers have helped imprison are from dangerous organizations known to be angry when their operations are disrupted due to the infiltration of an undercover officer, the suit states.
In addition to criminals recognizing the officers by their photos, criminals can also use facial recognition system technologies capable of matching a human face from a digital image or video frame against a database of faces, according to the suit.
"As such, plaintiffs both currently employed and retired need to be in a state of constant stress which they did not have prior to the negligent/reckless photo release," the suit states.