What a major screwup.
When the Stop the [Los Angeles Police Department] LAPD Spying Coalition, an activist organization focused on the “abolition of the police state,” launched their online database called “Watch the Watchers,” it included every LAPD officer’s name, rank, serial number, and photograph, including officers working undercover operations involving gangs, cartels, and narcotics.
According to the Court House News Service, this “strange controversy began with a public records act request, filed by a [Benjamin Camacho] reporter with the left-wing news site KnockLA, to obtain a roster of LAPD personnel listing names, ethnicity, gender, area, rank, year of hire, height, and weight, along with ‘headshots,’ or photographs, of every officer.”
In response to Camacho’s public records act request, the LAPD provided the information.
Once the database went live, the union representing the Los Angeles Police rank sued LAPD Police Chief Michael Moore to:
- Force the department from making officers’ photos public.
- Force them to take down the photos of undercover officers.
- Ask a judge to temporarily take down the Watch the Watchers website until the City of Los Angeles determines the security concerns of the officer’s images.
A coordinator with Stop the LAPD Spying Coalition, Hamid Khan, called the union lawsuit an “assault on people’s rights to access” information to hold officers accountable.
Chief Moore apologized to the officers and admitted that the department mistakenly provided the photos of the officers.
As this issue unfolds, even if a judge shuts down the Watch the Watchers website, the photos and information have already been displayed and are available to anyone from anywhere. It is impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube. The damage is done.
Other cities, county, and state officials need to use this situation as a valuable learning lesson and develop protections for our officers while balancing the community’s right to know because the right to know shouldn’t come at the expense of the safety of our officers.