In a September 18, 2018 exposé, Al Jazeera reported that the Long Beach Police Department had equipped 145 police-issued phones with TigerConnect, aka Tiger Text. The texting app, first installed in 2014, was designed to erase messages after a set period of time and render them irretrievable.
Officers told the reporters that the app was used to communicate about police operations and personnel issues. They maintain they were told by superiors to use the app to “have conversations with other officers that wouldn’t be discoverable” — which would include communications that could be used by attorneys as evidence in civil and criminal cases against the department.
HSR attorney Joshua Piovia-Scott, who recently sued the department and the city over the 2015 shooting of unarmed college student Feras Morad, was quoted in a Sept 18 Long Beach Post article, “If this is true, this could potentially be a huge issue both for civil cases and for criminal cases. The law requires [police] to produce information and documents in response to appropriate discovery requests, which we made a host of in this case.”
The Long Beach police department denies allegations that Tiger Text is used as an institutional cover-up, but has suspended the use of the app pending a review of department communications.
The ACLU told Al Jazeera that the Long Beach Police Department could be breaking laws that require record preservation and disclosure of records, which could affect verdicts in cases against the department. Southern California ACLU, and former HSR, attorney Mohammad Tajsar told Al Jazeera, “If the department brass instructed members of the force to use Tiger Text to shield from the public the disclosure of sensitive messages about investigations into police killings, then this is an institutional cover-up of the highest order, designed to protect a department that is notorious for killing people.”
Joanna Schwartz, an expert on police litigation at the UCLA School of Law, said “The use of Tiger Text by the police makes it more difficult to bring winning civil cases against them and effectively to defend criminal cases.
Piovia-Scott told the Long Beach Telegram “This would be the kind of uncensored, unvarnished communication about critical incidents that the families of the people who have been killed have the right to as part of litigation and they could be critical in these cases.”
The research group Mapping Police Violence ranked the LBPD 5th in the U.S. for officer-involved shootings per capita in 2015.