LAPD directed to monitor social media information of every civilian they interview

LAPD directed to monitor social media information of every civilian they interview
© FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles Police Department officers have been directed to take down social media information for every civilian they interview in the field, according to public information documents released by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Documents obtained by the Brennan Center reveal that the agency instructed officers to collect social media account information including from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, for anyone they interview in-person using field interview reports.

The documents were first reported by The Guardian

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In a 2015 memo obtained by the Center, then- LAPD Chief Charlie Beck tells officers that the field interview cards had been updated to include social media information.

“The ‘additional info’ box of the Field Interview (FI) Report…has been revised to include social media and email account information,” Beck wrote. “When completing an FI Report, officers should ask for a person’s social media and e-mail account information and include it in the ‘Additional Info” box.”

The “additional info” section is on the back of the card, according to a copy shared by the Brennan Center. The section asks for information on “additional persons, booking no., narrative, e-mail, social media account(s) (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) etc.”

In a separate memo dated July 22, 2020, LAPD Chief Michel Moore says the field interview cards are relied upon, in part, “as a basis for investigations, arrested and prosecutors.”

“Employees shall be diligent in ensuring that information documented on FIs is correct, to the best of the employee’s knowledge, at the time the FI is completed,” Moore wrote. “In addition, Department supervisors shall review all HIs for completeness and validity.”

Separately, a 2015 social media guide from LAPD’s Major Crimes Division reveals that officers are allowed to use “fictitious online persona” for “investigative activity” without much oversight.

In a statement released Thursday, LAPD said the information on the cards "is used to help our officers memorialize what was said in field interviews and stay in contact with people who can help us solve crimes." 

"Social media handles can be critical pieces of contact information, along with phone numbers and email addresses, because people communicate through social media now just as frequently as they do through calls, texts or emails. The LAPD is here to keep Angelenos safe, and we are committed to protecting their privacy rights as we confront that challenge every day," the agency said. 

The Brennan Center collected the documents as part of an effort to investigate how police departments go about social media monitoring.

The center said that a review of the cards in 40 other cities did not find that police departments elsewhere used such cards to collect social media information.

LAPD’s use of the interview cards has come under scrutiny before when three police officers were charged in October for falsifying information on the cards.

Updated: 4:39 p.m.