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

Three Los Angeles police officers are suing the owner of, accusing him of posting their photos on his website and putting a “bounty” on them.

It’s the first lawsuit stemming from the Los Angeles Police Department’s release of the names and photos of nearly all sworn officers – more than 9,300 officers, some of whom work undercover – in connection with a request for public records. A police watchdog released the footage online last Friday.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday by the Los Angeles Police Protection League on behalf of officers Adam Gross, Adrian Rodriguez and Douglas Panameno, asks that photos and other identifying information be removed from

In a tweet mentioned in the lawsuit, Steven Sutcliffe, who posts under the handle @KillerCops1984, reportedly wrote, “Remember #rewards are double all year round for #detectives and #female cops.” The tweet included an image of a monetary reward for killing an LAPD officer, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, a later tweet allegedly included a link to the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s officer photo database, along with the caption, “Clear head shots of these #LAPD officers.” From A to Z.”

In an interview on Friday, Sutcliffe said of the lawsuit: “It’s malicious. It’s retaliation. It’s vindictive and frivolous. Their motion is filled with lies.

He added: “They are trying to silence my freedom of expression. The truth cannot be retaliation. This is speech protected by the 1st Amendment.

The information about the officers was released by LAPD officials in response to a request for public records by a reporter from the nonprofit Knock LA newsroom, and later released by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, a group that wants to abolish the traditional law enforcement agencies but which has in the meantime 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 was launched, department heads revealed they had inadvertently posted photos of agents working undercover, and they opened an internal investigation to determine how the mistake happened. Sources said undercover officers whose identities were compromised upon release number in the dozens, if not hundreds.

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

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

“The messages, the nature of the messages, it’s not just bullying. They threaten and can constitute a crime,” he said. “It was one of those things that worried me and feared when we released these photographs ostensibly to be transparent, that others were going to use them to threaten our officers.”

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

“We erred in that there are photographs that shouldn’t have been there,” Moore said. “Now, but this ship has sailed. All of these photos are here. What I find disturbing is that, as I feared, … actors or individuals who are now taking this information and trying to intimidate or scare and scare.

Asked if he knew of any officers whose covers had been blown or if sensitive operations had been halted, Moore replied, “I don’t know of any at this point.”

Yet, he added, the damage is done.

“It affects us significantly from a moral point of view, and from there it is very unfortunate,” he said.

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

Tom Saggau, spokesman for the Police Protective League, which is the union representing rank and file officers. said the league plans to take legal action against the city and the 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 was more concerned about the city’s “colossal gaffe” than the reporter 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 shit leaking information that should never have been leaked, and other sites are mining that information and putting bounties on the heads of the cops.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Sutcliffe say the alleged threats, combined with the dissemination of their photos online, caused them emotional distress.

The three do not work in undercover missions. Saggau said Panameno works in the department’s auto 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 Police.

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

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

In a letter to Moore on Thursday, the union’s board said it had lost faith in Rhodes, asking the chief to put her on a home assignment.

Moore said he couldn’t discuss the request, 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 issue from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s decision to release the photos, said Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Aaron Mackey.

The 1st Amendment generally protects the publication of information received from the government, even when it was published in error, Mackey said.

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

“They don’t have that reasonable expectation of confidentiality in that basic information,” Mackey said.

Sutcliffe has previously encountered legal problems for online threats. In 2003, he pleaded guilty in federal court to eight counts of using a website he created to threaten executives of Global Crossing Ltd., a fiber-optic network company in Beverly Hills. , from which he was fired twice.

Los Angeles Times

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