The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition filed a public records lawsuit today challenging the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) deletion of personnel rosters from the city’s official public records website. These deletions are part of a campaign by city leaders to transform LAPD into a secret police in order to appease the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which has called for the identity of all police officers to be secret.
In April, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition observed several examples of LAPD deleting rosters of officers from official city websites. Some of the rosters were downloadable from city websites for over three before LAPD deleted them. After the Coalition filed a request for those deleted rosters, LAPD claimed they were secret.
“LAPD’s claim that records they put online for years are suddenly secret is an escalation of their efforts to become a fully secret police force,” said Shakeer Rahman, legal counsel for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. “The reason LAPD has become so brazen about violating public records laws is that both the Mayor and City Attorney have made clear that they will coddle any police demands for secrecy, no matter the cost.”
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition is fighting LAPD’s secrecy grabs on multiple fronts. In March, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition sued the City of Los Angeles for censoring basic information about LAPD officers on personnel rosters. That same month, the Coalition launched Watch the Watchers (http://watchthewatchers.net), a website where the public can search or browse officers based on their photographs, division, rank, and other official information. In April, the City of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and local journalist Ben Camacho claiming that it’s illegal to publish photographs of any LAPD officer. In two separate rulings, the L.A. Superior Court has denied the city’s censorship requests.
“LAPD is continuing its long history of deleting personnel records to hide them from the public,” said Matyos Kidane, a community organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. “In the 1970s, LAPD and the City Attorney collaborated to shred four tons of citizen complaints against police to circumvent a California Supreme Court ruling that required police to disclose those records.”
This case is the eighth public records lawsuit that the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition has filed against the City of Los Angeles. In each case against LAPD that has been resolved so far, the City Attorney was forced to produce the requests that LAPD had withheld.