Police in Long Beach, California were, until recently, using the Tiger Text app in communications with each other, which may have possibly been done to conceal evidence.
A report by Al-Jazeera English found that several Long Beach officers had Tiger Text installed on their police-issued phones, which is engineered to delete text messages after a set period of time. Even a forensic analysis of the phone is unable to retrieve deleted messages sent with Tiger Text.
According to the report, the practice of using Tiger Text may not have been isolated to just a few officers. Two officers told the outlet that a superior instructed them to install Tiger Text for interpersonal communications so that they could “have conversations with other officers that wouldn’t be discoverable.” This could have been used to discuss anything from concealing evidence of illegal activity to getting around public records laws.
“I find it odd that we have a communication system that circumvents everything that we are supposed to be doing,” an anonymous Long Beach officer still with the department told Al-Jazeera.
Al-Jazeera posted a screenshot of a 2015 email to lieutenants, command staff, and the chief’s office appearing to confirm that the use of Tiger Text was a department-wide process. The outlet also obtained an order from from the City of Long Beach for Tiger Text amounting to nearly $10,000.
While it’s unknown what officers discussed using the app, some of the texts may have been about police shootings of suspects. Mapping Police Violence’s 2015 data found that the Long Beach Police Department had the fifth-most deadly shootings of suspects per capita in the entire U.S., with a rate of 10.6 people killed per million residents.
ACLU of Southern California attorney Mohammad Tajsar told the outlet that, if the practice of using the app was ordered from the department’s top brass, it would be a major scandal. The department denied it, according to 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,” Tajsar said.
You can read the full investigation by clicking here.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.