The investigation into the Long Beach Police Department’s use of a communications app that automatically deleted messages should be finished by December, City Attorney Charles Parkin said at a meeting of the City Council’s public safety committee Tuesday.
The app, called TigerText, has caused a stir among civil rights attorneys and activists in the city since last month when Al Jazeera revealed the department was using it.
In response, the city commissioned a review on Sept. 21, and the police department ordered officers to stop using the app for now.
Since then, Deputy Police Chief Richard Conant said the department has been communicating “the old fashioned way,” by phone and in person. He said the change has been affecting efficiency. Police officials previously said only a limited number of high-ranking or specialized officers had the app, which they used to communicate confidential information.
The investigation is being led by a former prosecutor Gary W. Schons, who specializes in public integrity issues for the law firm Best Best & Krieger. Long Beach has previously hired Best Best & Krieger to litigate on behalf of the city, including in a recent fight with activists over ballot language.
“We’re looking forward to finding an independent, neutral review—not based on accusation, but based on facts and evidence,” Conant said at the meeting.
Conant maintained that no police reports came out differently because of TigerText, despite the automatic deleting feature.
He noted that officers throw away their notes from cases all the time once they’re incorporated into police reports. Luna also stated that the app was not used for note-taking, but for secure messaging, specifically for “short term administrative values.”
Councilwoman Suzie Price, an Orange County Deputy District Attorney, noted that throwing away notes is a common practice in police departments, calling it impractical to store all notes.
But the nature of the app has infuriated many.
“Why on earth use a self-deleting app?” said resident Maryanne Drummond, one of the speakers during public comment. “That’s disruptive to public trust.”
City officials have said the results of Schons’ probe will be released to the public “to the extent allowable under California State law.”
Valerie Osier is a breaking news reporter for the Long Beach Post. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ValerieOsier
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