Los Angeles police investigating whether council members were recorded illegally

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating whether audio of members of city council making racist comments was recorded illegally, the police chief said Tuesday.

The recording from 2021 was leaked online and published by the Los Angeles Times earlier this month.

It has created a firestorm of controversy that led to the resignation of Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez — first from her leadership role and then from the council altogether — and demands that two other members also resign.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during a media availability Tuesday that the department was asked Friday to investigate whether the group was illegally recorded.

Investigators do not have a suspect and “at this point the investigation is wide open,” Moore said in response to questions by The Associated Press, video of which was posted online by police.

California law requires the consent of all parties in recording private communications.

The 2021 meeting was attended by Martinez, council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera, the president of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Moore answered “yes” when asked if it was Martinez, de León, Cedillo, and the president of the federation made the request.

“A communication by the individuals that were in the meeting came to the department and asked for an investigation and the assertion that a crime had been committed, that they had been unlawfully and surreptitiously recorded,” Moore said. “And we’re conducting that investigation.”

Herrera has resigned. A spokesperson for the federation said he is no longer works for the organization, and that the current leadership did not make the request.

De León and Cedillo have not resigned, despite calls to do so.

An emailed request for comment sent to de León’s office Tuesday night was not immediately returned. Attempts to reach the office of Cedillo, who lost a primary in June and whose term ends in December, were not successful.

On Tuesday protesters shouted over council members at the government body’s meeting, demanding that de León and Cedillo resign, NBC Los Angeles reported.

At the 2021 meeting, which was apparently about political strategy and redistricting, Martinez used racist language to refer to the Black son of another council member, Mike Bonin. She used a Spanish term to refer to the child as an animal.

Martinez, Cedillo, de León and Herrera are Latino Democrats. Martinez also at one point is heard saying of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, in part, “he’s with the Blacks.”

The recording surfaced on a Reddit discussion board this month but was deleted. The source of the audio is unknown, and NBC News hasn’t determined whether it has been edited.

Martinez resigned as a city council member Oct. 12, two days after she stepped down from her role as council president.

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