The LAPD has instructed officers to collect social media data and social security numbers on everyone they stop.
The LAPD is one of the largest police departments in the US. As a result, the actions it takes have a profound impact on countless individuals. The department also has a long track record of police misconduct and controversy, including civil rights violations.
In fact, the department’s behavior led the DOJ to threaten a civil suit over the LAPD’s long history of abuses. To avoid the suit, the LAPD entered into a Civil Rights Consent Decree with the DOJ in 2001. While such legally binding decrees last a minimum of five years, this particular decree lasted until 2013, when the DOJ was satisfied enough changes had taken place.
According to The Guardian, however, the LAPD is once again engaging in disturbing behavior. Documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice show that the LAPD has instructed its officers to collect the social media information of everyone they stop — including individuals who have neither been arrested, nor charged with a crime.
The department evidently added the line for social media accounts on its field interview cards in 2015. In a memo to employees, Chief Michael Moore said the data was critical to aid in “investigations, arrests, and prosecutions.”
According to the Brennon Center, none of the other 40 police departments the organization checked with called for its officers to collect such information.
“There are real dangers about police having all of this social media identifying information at their fingertips,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, a deputy director at the Brennan Center, told The Guardian.
To make matters worse, LAPD officers are instructed to collect individuals’ social security numbers, telling them federal law requires it.
The revelation is drawing condemnation from critics, including Kathleen Kim. Kim is “a Loyola law professor and immigrants’ rights expert, who previously served on the LA police commission.”
Kim said she was unaware of any legal requirement that individuals provide their social security number and was shocked at the news. She said the policy was “so antithetical to the department’s own policies.”
It’s a safe bet the LAPD may once again find itself at the center of some well-deserved scrutiny by the DOJ.