LAPD to modify undercover surveillance policies

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Police Department will modify its policies on the use of confidential informants and undercover officers after a Los Angeles Times report revealed the agency had spied on a political group that was planning protests against President Trump in 2017, it was reported today.

Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission Tuesday that the decision to deploy informants inside sensitive locations “including churches, hospitals or law offices” or among political groups will now require the approval of some of the department’s highest-ranking officers.

“The use of a confidential informant or undercover officer at a place of worship or other sensitive location where 1st Amendment protected activities [are] conducted, I believe, should receive a higher level of scrutiny and approval before becoming operational, to ensure that the benefit of the investigative technique is not outweighed by the potential loss of public trust,” Moore said earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The policy change comes after The Times revealed that the department had sent an informant to monitor and surreptitiously record four meetings held by Refuse Fascism in October 2017 as the group plotted demonstrations and protests to mark the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s election. Refuse Fascism is considered to be a largely nonviolent group, yet the LAPD informant monitored four of its meetings inside an Echo Park church.

Records about the informant’s activities became public as part of a criminal case against members of Refuse Fascism who blocked downtown freeways during two separate protests in 2017. The informant filed multiple reports but never uncovered any information about potential violence or crimes being plotted by the group, according to court records.

Civil liberties advocates and experts on the political fringe described the LAPD’s tactics as “deeply troubling.” The protest that Refuse Fascism ultimately staged in downtown Los Angeles on Election Day 2017 ended with just two arrests and no injuries.

The LAPD did not conduct similar spying operations on right-wing groups in the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of the presidential election, a law enforcement source previously told The Times.

Moore said the department’s actions in the Refuse Fascism case did not violate LAPD policy, and he did not believe investigators had done anything wrong. Some of the department’s highest-ranking officials, including former Police Chief Charlie Beck, had been made aware of the operation even though it was not required by policy.

Going forward, Moore said, he wants to make sure that such reviews are mandated. The department’s general counsel may also become involved in such decisions, according to Moore, who said he now considers the matter closed.

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