Two Los Angeles Times reporters were accused of “stalking” by the city’s police union, which emailed the charge to its more than 9,000 members on July 10, 2023, after the pair went to an officer’s home to ask for comment for a forthcoming article.
Reporters Brittny Mejia and Libor Jany were investigating the June 2021 detonation of a seized fireworks cache that went awry, seriously injuring 17 people and damaging homes, businesses and vehicles on a South L.A. residential block. The Los Angeles Police Department repeatedly declined requests to identify the bomb squad officers involved, citing existing law, but the journalists were ultimately able to uncover their identities.
Prior to publication, on July 8, Mejia and Jany went to the homes of several officers without incident, the Times reported. Then the two arrived at the home of Sgt. Stefanie Alcocer, who had been suspended for 10 days for her role in the blast.
The journalists identified themselves and asked Alcocer if she’d like to provide comment, as their article would make her identity public for the first time. Alcocer, who denied her role in the incident, made a call, took their business cards, then asked them to leave. Mejia and Jany did so.
After the journalists left, the Times reported that Jany noticed a missed call from LAPD spokesperson Capt. Kelly Muniz. When he called her back, Muniz reprimanded him for approaching Alcocer at home. LAPD Chief Michel Moore also called Jany and Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida with similar complaints.
In a subsequent interview over text, Moore told the Times, “Such unannounced visits unnecessarily create fear and intimidation on the part of our people and their family (including children) during a time in which we have individuals calling for violence against police officers.”
Two days after the door-knocking, the Los Angeles Police Protective League — a union representing rank-and-file LAPD officers — sent an email to its members asserting that it was “unacceptable” for reporters to approach officers at their homes.
The email alleged that Jany and Mejia had engaged in “stalking” and were “following officers to their homes,” the Times reported. The message also included photos of Mejia and Jany and identified them by name, according to a screenshot Mejia posted on Twitter.
“You do not have to open your door to these individuals,” the email said. “You do not have to engage with them at all, and if they persist in ringing your doorbell or banging on your door, do not open it as their motives are suspect.”
Tom Saggau, a spokesperson for the union, told the Times that union leaders decided it was necessary to alert officers, as many are on edge following the publishing of thousands of officer photos online.
A roster of more than 9,000 officers and their photos was released to Knock LA reporter Ben Camacho in September 2022 and subsequently published by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. In April, following backlash from the LAPD and union, the city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Camacho in an attempt to claw back the photos.
Saggau did not respond to questions sent via text by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. The LAPD declined to comment further when reached by email.
Neither Mejia nor Jany responded to emailed requests for comment. But Times Executive Editor Merida, in a statement to the newspaper, defended the journalists’ actions as routine newsgathering.
“They are making an effort to give the subjects of their reporting an opportunity to speak for themselves and share their version of events,” Merida said. “As such, they are upholding the principles of journalism.”