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LAPD officers sue owner of anti-cop website for posting photos, ‘bounty’


Three Los Angeles police officers are suing the owner of killercops.com, accusing him of posting their photos on his website and offering a “reward” for them.

It’s the first legal action arising from the Los Angeles Police Department’s release of the names and photos of nearly all sworn officers, more than 9,300 officers, including some working undercover, as part of a records request. public. A police watchdog group posted the images online last Friday.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday by the Los Angeles Police Protective League on behalf of Officers Adam Gross, Adrian Rodriguez and Douglas Panameno, requests that the photos and other identifying information be removed from the killercops.com site.

In a tweet mentioned in the lawsuit, Steven Sutcliffe, who posts under the username @KillerCops1984, allegedly wrote: “Remember, #rewards are doubled all year long for #detectives and #policewomen.” The tweet included an image of a monetary reward for killing an LAPD officer, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, a subsequent tweet allegedly included a link to the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s database of officer photos, along with the caption: “Clean photos of these #LAPD officers. From a to Z.”

In an interview on Friday, Sutcliffe said of the lawsuit: “It’s malicious. It’s a retaliation. He is vindictive and frivolous. His movement is full of lies ”.

And he added: “They are trying to silence my freedom of expression. The truth cannot be vengeful. It is speech protected by the First Amendment.”

The information about the officers was released by LAPD officials in response to a public records request by a journalist from the nonprofit newsroom Knock LA, later published by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, a group that wants to abolish spying. traditional law enforcement but in the meantime has pushed for radical transparency.

The Watch the Watchers database includes each officer’s name, ethnicity, rank, date of hire, division/office, and badge number, as well as a photo of the officer.

After the site’s launch, department leaders revealed that they inadvertently posted photos of officers working undercover and began an internal investigation to determine how the error occurred. Sources have said the undercover officers whose identities were compromised in the release number number in the dozens, if not hundreds.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in an interview Friday that he supports the league’s efforts to remove the photos from Sutcliffe’s website.

He added that the department was investigating whether the “request for violence against officers” was criminal in nature.

“The posts, the nature of the posts, is not just bullying. They are threatening and can constitute a crime,” she said. “This is one of those things that I was concerned about and feared when we posted these photos ostensibly to be transparent, that others would use them to threaten our officers.”

The chief said he has taken steps to address the safety concerns of those whose photos were posted.

“We were wrong in the sense that there are photographs that should not have been there,” Moore said. “Now, but that ship has sailed. All those pictures are here. What I find concerning is that, as I feared…actors or people who are now taking this information and trying to intimidate or scare and scare.”

Asked if he knows of any officers whose cover has been blown or sensitive operations have been disrupted, Moore said: “I’m not aware of any at this time.”

Still, he added, the damage has already been done.

“It’s impacting us significantly from a morale standpoint, and for that, it’s very unfortunate,” he said.

The release of the photos has rocked the LAPD. Sources said it has prompted some officers to consider retirement.

Tom Saggau, spokesman for the Police Protective League, which is the union that represents rank and file officers. he said the league plans to take legal action against the city and LAPD.

Dozens of undercover officers are expected to file a class action lawsuit against the department, according to attorneys representing those officers.

Saggau said the union is more concerned about the city’s “colossal mistake” than it is about the journalist who first received the photos or the watchdog group that published them.

“They got their information through a PRA (public records request),” he said. “It’s the city’s mistake that revealed information that should never have been disclosed, and other sites are exploiting that information and offering bounties on cops’ heads.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Sutcliffe claim that the alleged threats, combined with the circulation of their photos online, have caused them emotional distress.

The three of them don’t work covert missions. Saggau said that Panamanian works in the department’s Motorized Transportation Division. The assignments of the other two officers were not disclosed.

On Monday, the union filed a formal complaint against Moore and Lizabeth Rhodes, director of the LAPD’s Office of Constitutional Enforcement.

Moore has asked the inspector general to take over the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest.

Multiple LAPD sources not authorized to discuss the photo scandal said Rhodes, who oversaw the photo’s release, should have ensured that any officers working undercover were excluded from the release of information.

In a letter to Moore on Thursday, the union’s board of directors said it had lost faith in Rhodes and asked the boss to assign her to his home.

Moore said he could not discuss the lawsuit, citing personnel issues.

Legal experts say a judge will have to decide whether the tweets at issue in the lawsuit meet the legal definition of a threat.

That’s a separate question from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s decision to release the photos, said Aaron Mackey, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The First Amendment generally protects the release of information received from the government, even when released in error, Mackey said.

LAPD officers can argue that the release of their photos, hire dates and other information is an intrusion into their privacy, but that argument is unlikely to hold up in court, he said.

“They don’t have this reasonable expectation of privacy on this basic information,” Mackey said.

Sutcliffe has been in legal trouble before over online threats. In 2003, he pleaded guilty in federal court on eight felony counts for using a website he created to threaten executives at Global Crossing Ltd., a fiber-optic networking company in Beverly Hills from which he was fired twice.

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