Emails reveal Citizen App’s warm relationship with LAPD


Image: Myung J. Chun/Contributor

Piracy. Disinformation. Monitoring. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reports on the dark underbelly of the internet.

The Citizen crime awareness app has a much closer relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department than previously thought, including access to data held by the police department and touring the facilities of the LAPD, according to emails obtained by Motherboard.

The emails provide greater clarity on the steps Citizen has taken to work with law enforcement and its ambitions to be more closely tied to law enforcement systems.

“Let’s tune in early next week and see if Ivy has an update on more frequent sharing of CAD/Goldmine data with us,” Andrew Karn, Citizen Partnerships Manager, wrote to an LAPD officer. in March 2021.

Work at Citizen? Have you used to? We would love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox or by email [email protected]

CAD seems to refer to the LAPD Computer Aided Dispatch System, which the police department uses to “respond to a dispatch in a faster, intuitive, and more organized way,” according to the LAPD’s website. Gold mine is an LAPD database for crime analysisincluding radio communications, service calls and field data loggers.

Motherboard obtained the emails after filing for public registration. While responding to the request, the LAPD pointed to a selection of responsive documents it had previously posted on its website, including these emails.

As part of its normal operations, Citizen has employees who listen to feeds from police radio scanners, digest information about what the company calls “incidents” and send localized push alerts to users about what’s going on. in their neighborhood. Usually, these police radio streams are publicly available. Motherboard previously reported on an internal Citizen document that showed the company believed it would have access to encrypted communications from at least one police department.

In January, Motherboard reported that LAPD members reassessed their relationship with Citizen after placing a $30,000 bounty on the wrong person’s head during a wildfire in the city’s Palisades neighborhood.

Access to police data such as that stored by the LAPD would signal a deeper relationship than simply listening to public radio traffic. Citizen told Motherboard in an emailed statement, “It should come as no surprise that we frequently engage with law enforcement, government officials and various community groups to assess how we can best share information from public safety with Citizen users. We believe that our community engagement efforts and taking an open, collaborative approach are key to ensuring that Citizen’s technology supports public safety and helps communities feel more informed and connected. The LAPD acknowledged a request for comment but did not provide a response in time for publication.

In this case, the LAPD seemed unable to provide more data.

“I had a look at Goldmine after we met and unfortunately, although it is possible to generate a spreadsheet, the spreadsheet does not include the data we are looking for. There may be another program that can provide us with this data, however, it is not something that I have access to,” replied LAPD Crime and Intelligence Analyst Ivy Butler.

The same month that Karn sent an email about receiving more frequent data from the LAPD, the LAPD gave a Citizen employee a neighborhood tour, according to another email.

“Thank you for arranging the meeting and for your hospitality. It was very interesting to be able to walk around the precinct and see how things work out back,” a Citizen employee wrote to the LAPD in the “I’d love to accept your ride offer,” they added.

Then a month later, in April 2021, Capt. Ryan Whiteman, commander of the West Los Angeles Patrol Division, spoke at Citizen’s town hall meeting, according to the emails. The hope was that Whiteman might be able to give Citizen a better sense of his perspective as the leader of the LAPD “and as someone who has incredible insight into security issues in Los Angeles today.” reads an email written by a Citizen employee. Twice a month, Citizen invites a guest speaker to speak to about 75 employees to share their perspective on Citizen, reads another email.

After the event, a Citizen employee wrote to Whiteman and said, “We’d like to send you a little token of thanks and hope you can provide us with your t-shirt size and best mailing address.” employee wrote to Whiteman.

Citizen also tried to integrate more closely with the LAPD in the hunt for missing persons, the emails show.

“I wanted to reach out with some amazing news!” a Citizen employee wrote to an LAPD officer in June. “Recently, a 12-year-old boy with autism went missing in the Bronx for 2 days. We informed the 1.7 million Citizen users in New York and encouraged them to participate in the search.

This hunt for the missing child was controversial. Citizen released footage of people finding the boy, asking him to come with them in a vehicle and returning him to his family. While the footage was presented as organic Citizen users, they were actually secretly members of Citizen’s so-called street crew, who are paid by the company to film events. The event led to an internal discussion about whether street crew members should be more clearly identified as citizen workers, Motherboard reported with internal Citizen documents.

“Citizen now has a dedicated 24/7 missing persons office that works directly with local law enforcement,” the June email continued. “You can work with us to send missing person notifications to targeted areas.”

“I would like to discuss how we can help the LA Police Department use the power of the Citizen Network to bring missing persons home safely!” add the email.

Motherboard previously reported that Citizen tested an on-demand private security force in Los Angeles. According to leaked internal emails, Citizen presented the security response service to the LAPD at a high level. The email said the LAPD believed the solution could be a game-changer.

Update: This piece has been updated with a statement from Citizen.

Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER. To subscribe to our new Twitch channel.

About Donald J. Beadle

Check Also

New Profile Pic app: Does Russia collect personal data from Facebook users?

It’s a new internet craze that turns your Facebook profile picture into a painting or …