LOS ANGELES, CA (LifeSiteNews) – The Los Angeles Police Department is telling its officers to ask for social media identities from everyone they stop, regardless of whether or not they are guilty of a crime.
Documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law include a July 2020 internal memo from Police Chief Michel Moore telling officers that the data collection from field interview cards (FI cards) is crucial for “investigations, arrests and prosecutions.” Another document from May 2015 states that social media and email communications can be “highly beneficial to investigations and possibly even to future outreach programs.”
In response to the Brennan Center’s request for information, the LAPD stated that it does “not track what (if anything) [its] employees monitor,” and that it “has not conducted any audits regarding the use of social media.” Further, most of the people stopped by LAPD officers who were documented in the FI cards did not get arrested or cited, according to the Los Angeles Times. The LAPD also faced scrutiny because some of the officers had falsified FI cards to make people look like gang members when in fact they were not.
The program is being expanded this year with the introduction of Media Sonar to the previous program Palantir. Palantir acts as a database for all of the information gathered from the FI cards used by LAPD officers. The database would allow for the tracking of someone suspected of being a gang member by mapping movements, listing DMV data, etc. The expansion would allow for LAPD to have a system that connects individuals whose information they have collected from FI cards to other people that the individuals know online, even if they are innocent of any crime.
“The information on these 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,” a spokesman for the LAPD informed LifeSiteNews by email.
“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 spokesman continued.
“The LAPD is here to keep Angelenos safe, and we are committed to protecting their privacy rights as we confront that challenge every day.
Mary Pat Dwyer, a lawyer and fellow of the Brennan Center, writing for the Brennan Center’s website, says that “nothing bars officers from filling out FI cards for each interaction they engage in on patrol,” adding that a review of information from FI cards from 40 other cities “did not reveal any other police departments that use the cards to collect social media data, though details are sparse.” She also stated that the “cards facilitate large-scale monitoring of both individuals on whom they are collected and their family, friends, and associates.”
Speaking to Ars Technica, Dwyer added that while the Fourth Amendment doesn’t stop police from asking for voluntary information, people are not bound to respond.
“However, depending on the circumstances of a stop, people may not feel the freedom to walk away without responding,” she said.
LifeSiteNews reached out to the Brennan Center for further comment but has not yet had a response.