California Police Officers’ Security at Risk as LAPD, DA Fail to Protect Identities

Police officers in Los Angeles have faced challenges after info on undercover cops was inadvertently released to public and progressive district attorney highlights troubled cops over criminal news.

Los Angeles cops are struggling in the wake of the mass release of information on thousands of officers, including hundreds who work undercover, which included their names, ethnicities, assignments and photographs.

The information went out in response to a public records request, however, according to the police union, photos of undercover officers should not have been included with the material.

“It’s dicey, very dangerous,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, a longtime police sergeant and the spokesperson for the National Police Association. “The photograph part of it is very concerning.”

eparately, with the county prosecutor increasingly going after police accused of bad behavior, identifying information on those officers is being made public in press releases and court filings. However, experts tell Fox News Digital, there are ways to minimize your publicly accessible footprint online.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has for years included dates of birth, along with suspects’ names, in his press releases, and a spokesperson for DA George Gascon told Fox News Digital that the practice has been in place long before he took office.

“The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has maintained a protocol of including a defendant’s DOB in news releases for the last two decades in order to specifically identify the appropriate person,” Gascon’s office said in a statement. “Additionally, when a complaint is filed, the DOB is on the document and the document is a part of the public record.”

Experts say it’s an unnecessary inclusion that puts the safety of officers and their families in jeopardy.

“There’s no reason to put these police officers’ birthdates in a press release,” Brantner Smith told Fox News Digital. “There’s really no reason to put anybody’s birthdate in a press release…You can say, Joe Smith, age 46. You don’t have to put their birthday.”

There are also services for police officers (and for the public) to minimize the amount of personal information that can be uncovered online with their name and date of birth. 

One of the impacted undercover LAPD officers, who asked to remain anonymous, told Fox News Digital he had already been subscribing to privacy software for years by the time the city released his name, photo and other details.

“I’m not speaking for all of us, but when we accept these positions we know there are dangers,” he said. “The least we expect is for our department not to blast our information out there.”

Pete James, the founder of, which the undercover officer has been using, said his software can help users remove unwanted personal information that has been compiled on the internet without their consent. While he spent his career in law enforcement and founded his company with police in mind, he said about half of his clients work in other fields.

“You don’t want your work following you home,” he told Fox News Digital. “So when you get home, and you’re with your family and your kids, you don’t want the criminals and the thugs and the people you’ve been dealing with at work to know where you live, and where your spouse is.”

But armed with a name, date of birth and hometown, anyone on the internet can dig up that information unless you take steps to suppress it with his software, other programs like it or by manually going to each database and requesting to be removed, he said. 

“These connections are made by online profiles without your permission,” he said. “The way you break that connection is by removing yourself from these people search sights.”

That’s what his company does, but he also recommends that members of law enforcement be extremely mindful about what kind of personal information they post online and on social media – and what their family members share as well.

The public records incident kicked off at least two potential lawsuits – one against a website that turned the release into a searchable database and another against the city on behalf of 300 undercover officers alleging negligence.

“I would think that police officers in Los Angeles and L.A. County have a lot to worry about in general; why add this additional layer of concern?” Brantner Smith asked. “There is no logical reason for it.”

She said the privacy issue impacts not only officers but also their families. 

“What they do is they find out where their kids go to school, perhaps where their spouse works, vehicle descriptions – and it gets frightening for the personnel involved,” she said. 

As a police trainer, she even urges officers now to set up a plan in advance on how to react, and where their families should go, if they are involved in a critical incident.

“It’s a huge risk because these officers’ private information is now public,” said James, founder of the privacy firm. “Officers all over the country are getting harassed and doxxed, and when an officer’s private information is exposed on the internet it exposed them and their families at risk. This should never happen.”

He keeps a list of cases that he says illustrate the problem – ranging from vandalism at officers’ homes to violent attacks, including the 2014 shooting of a Philadelphia officer in his own driveway by a masked gunman.