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Los Angeles sues journalist over release of officer information

(NewsNation) — The City of Los Angeles is suing a journalist and a watchdog group over the publication of LAPD officers‘ names, photos and other information.

It’s been seven months since 28-year-old Ben Camacho, a journalist with Knock LA, got the manila envelope from the City of Los Angeles through a records request.

“I got some photos, and then they made a mistake, apparently, in giving me too many photos,” he said. “None of that is on me.”

Camacho said in an exclusive NewsNation interview that he was stunned to get way more than what he requested from the Los Angeles Police Department. After he got the roster and a flash drive full of photos, Camacho said, he put the information on a One Drive link.

“Even if I gave you whatever copies I have, the flash drive, that’s not going to do anything to remedy it,” Camacho said.

Among those who used the data is the watchdog group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. They built an online database called “Watch the Watchers,” which has more than 9,300 officers’ information and photographs on it.

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition said they created the website for police accountability and transparency.

“The LAPD is notorious for not sharing their name, not sharing,” Stop LAPD Spying Coalition organizer Hamid Khan said in a previous interview with NewsNation. “What this website does is brings that information together in service to the community.”

Los Angeles’ suit against Camacho and the coalition demands that the information and photos be returned to the city and any copies destroyed.

Regarding its legal action, the city said, “While there is strong public interest in governmental transparency, there is equally strong interest in the safety of LAPD officers.”

“That is why we brought this suit — to have the photos of officers immediately removed from the website and to have the flash drive containing them returned,” the city added.

Some officers, though, say they fear for their safety. More than 300 undercover officers for the LAPD filed legal claims against the city and the police department.

“This presents a direct threat to the citizens of Los Angeles. Several undercovers have been threatened with direct threats based on this release,” their attorney, Matthew McNicholas, said.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has refused to comment on the lawsuit, but expressed her concerns over officer safety, recruiting and retention.

“I’m very worried that with the officers who have been revealed, that it might increase people leaving the department,” she said.

But to Camacho, “the cat’s out of the bag.”

“You can’t undo this,” he said. “That’s not how the internet works.”

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