Reporter Asks Court to Dismiss LA City Lawsuit Over Police Photo Release

Civil rights attorneys for reporter Ben Camacho say the City of Los Angeles has made an unconstitutional demand in court to try to prevent the publication of photos of police officers that the City released

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Lawyers representing a reporter being sued by the City of Los Angeles -- over the City's public release of photographs of thousands of LAPD officers -- have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds it violates the US Constitution's protections of free speech and freedom of the press.

"All I want is the City's case to get dropped," said reporter Ben Camacho, to whom the City provided the police photos last year.

Camacho's attorneys have asked the court to strike, or dismiss, the City's actions, saying the suit itself shouldn't be allowed because Camacho was engaged in constitutionally protected activity when he obtained and shared the photos, and related public information, about the LAPD's staff.

The City's lawsuit demanded Camacho 'return' the digital images, destroy copies, and remove them from being accessed via the internet, even though the City had provided the material in response to a public records request that was settled after an initial dispute in court.

"What they're seeking is futile," said attorney Susan E. Seager at a news conference Tuesday.

Seager is representing Camacho through the University of California, Irvine's School of Law Press Freedom Project, which Seager runs.

"You cannot punish the press for publishing things that they lawfully obtained," Seager explained, and said the City's demands are clearly prohibited by the state and federal constitutions.

The LA City Attorney's Office declined to comment on the filing of the case against Camacho.

Camacho told the I-Team earlier this month that he first requested a list of officers and their photographs in 2021, after he said numerous officers he observed during large street protests tried to obscure their uniform name tags, would shine flashlights in reporters faces and cameras to prevent recordings, and would refuse to provide identification information when challenged.

The City filed the lawsuit against Camacho after the union that represents most LAPD officers, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, sued the City demanding it take action to 'claw back' the photos.

The union claimed photos of officers who worked in undercover assignments were accidentally included in the release to Camacho, and those officers could be in danger if easily identified in public.

That same week a private attorney who often represents LAPD officers in lawsuits against the City filed a government claim, a preliminary step before a lawsuit can be filed, that said he represented hundreds of officers who believed their names and photos should have been withheld from the public list, also citing the potential danger to officers working in what he described as sensitive assignments.

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