After promising not to, LBPD says it accidentally shared license plate data with ICE

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Despite city policy restricting what information police can provide to federal immigration officials, the Long Beach Police Department was sharing data from automatic license plate readers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a 10-month span this year, the department confirmed Monday.

The LBPD’s admission that it had been accidentally sharing the sensitive information was first reported by the Los Angeles Times on Monday. The Times was following up on an issue first brought to the department’s attention by a report in FORTHE, a local media outlet, which outlined how the department uses automated license plate readers for parking enforcement. According to FORTHE, ICE showed up on a list of agencies that had access to the license plate data.

This was despite a 2018 city ordinance called the Long Beach Values Act that banned all city departments, including LBPD, from coordinating with federal immigration officers or sharing personal information with ICE for the purposes of civil immigration enforcement.

In a statement, the department said that a contract employee inadvertently used a “group approval” feature in February, which authorized hundreds of requests, including one from ICE, to access the department’s trove of license plate data collected by its Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) system.

“Lifting the restriction was neither a conscious decision nor a policy decision on the part of the Police Department,” the statement said.

The department noted personal identifying information associated with the plates was not included in the data shared. The LBPD has now revoked ICE’s access and put in place protocols to make sure it doesn’t happen again, including reducing the number of employees who have access to the administrative portion of the ALPR system, prohibiting group approvals and requiring command-level review and approval before a new request for access is authorized.

ICE had access to the data from February until November when FORTHE made the records request, the LBPD said.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who has been a vocal opponent of the city cooperating with immigration enforcement activities, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

In July 2019, in response to planned ICE raids, Garcia released a video message in Spanish calling the raids “unjust and dangerous.” He assured the community at the time the federal organization did not have access to LBPD’s internal data.

“The Mayor and the City Council have made it clear that the LBPD may not share civil immigration information with ICE,” James Ahumada, a spokesman for the mayor said. “The chief fixed this error a month ago and is working to ensure privacy and alignment with SB54 and the Long Beach Values Act.”

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.
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