LA police union files lawsuit against owner of 'killer cop' website
LOS ANGELES - A group of Los Angeles Police Department officers, and the union representing them, have filed a lawsuit against the owner of a website that lists bounties for the killing of police officers, demanding that it be taken down immediately.
"Late last week, the LAPD mistakenly released the pictures, names and work locations of 9,000 officers through California Public Records Act requests, including those who work in sensitive assigned and undercover operations," according to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
"As a result of the LAPD's negligence in releasing the pictures, names and work locations of officers, even those working in undercover operations, the owner of the `killer cops' website was able to download this sensitive information, post it online and place a bounty to be paid to anyone who kills a Los Angeles police officer," said Craig Lally, president of the LAPPL.
"This dangerous and abhorrent threat has further endangered every police officer, as well as their families, and we will be asking a judge to immediately intervene to protect our members," Lally said.
The named plaintiffs are listed as LAPD officers Adam Gross, Adrian Rodriguez and Douglas Panameno. The defendant is Steven William Sutcliffe "a user of the website Twitter, and utilizes the username KILLERCOP1984," the lawsuit states.
Sutcliffe told the Los Angeles Times the lawsuit is "malicious. It's retaliatory. It is vindictive and frivolous. Their motion is filled with lies. They are trying to silence my free speech. The truth cannot be retaliatory. It is 1st Amendment protected speech."
Attorneys for the LAPPL also served a cease-and-desist notice on Twitter and Google seeking the immediate removal of the "killer cop" website from the platforms.
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"We certainly hope that Twitter and Google act with a sense of urgency to remove this threatening domestic terrorism site," Robert Rico, general counsel of the LAPPL, said in a statement. "The colossal blunder perpetuated by the LAPD in releasing this sensitive information must be met with a zero-tolerance approach by these two social media companies, which should include a lifetime ban of the owner of this site."
Tom Saggau, spokesman for LAPPL, said the lawsuit filed by the union is not against the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which has sought public records from the department, but the owner of the "killer cop" website.
"We're looking into all websites to see legally what we can do," Jamie McBride, an LAPPL director, told City News Service. "However, the `killer cop' website was of the utmost important to our membership and for officers' safety."
During the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Tuesday, board president William Briggs expressed frustration and concern over how information related to LAPD officers was released to a police watchdog organization and eventually published online.
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition filed a public records lawsuit against the city, challenging what it called the LAPD's refusal to release basic personnel information. The coalition also launched Watch the Watchers, a website that publishes head shots and other information related to sworn personnel.
On its website, the coalition says the records were obtained "from public records released by city agencies."
Briggs said Tuesday the release of information about officers was done in reckless disregard for the safety of officers and their families. Police Chief Michel Moore said the Office of Inspector General would conduct an investigation into the matter.
The LAPPL also filed an internal affairs misconduct complaint against Moore, and other LAPD and city personnel involved in the release of police officers' information.
McBride said the complaint against Moore and Lizabeth Rhodes, a police administrator III, who had long-standing knowledge of the CPRA requests, alleges they failed to notify the appropriate personnel. Moore previously stated he found out the information was published online after the fact.
"He knew or should have known that this was occurring, and the same thing for Liz Rhodes," McBride said. "If he acted alone, or if she notified the chief, both of them are responsible for the release of these photos."
"Once we find out exactly who was in charge, or who was reckless enough to release these photos, we're going to ask those individuals to be removed from office because they jeopardized a lot of people's safety, including families."