Los Angeles detectives are investigating whether a recording last year that captured city councilmembers’ racist remarks was made illegally. The recording’s disclosure this month laid bare the unequal representation and divided political power along racial lines in Los Angeles, reports Associated Press. The council president, Nury Martinez, resigned while two other councilmembers have resisted widespread calls for their ousters, from the White House down. The social unrest began with the release nearly two weeks ago of a previously unknown recording of a 2021 private meeting involving Martinez and Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, as well as labor leader Ron Hererra, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “The department has initiated a criminal investigation into an allegation of eavesdropping,” said Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore. The group, all Latino Democrats, was captured on the recording scheming to protect their political authority amid the redrawing of council districts during an hourlong, closed-door meeting that was laced with bigoted comments. They used racist language to mock colleagues while they planned how to protect Latino political strength in council districts.
Under California law, all parties must consent to the recording of a private conversation or phone call. Otherwise, the person who made the recording could face criminal and civil penalties. The state’s wiretapping statutes are among the strongest in the nation and allow the “injured party” — the person being recorded without their permission — to sue. Martinez, de León, Cedillo, and Herrera asked the Los Angeles Police Department for an investigation on Friday more than two weeks after the recording's posting on Reddit. Detectives have asked the group why they believe the recording was made “unlawfully and surreptitiously." Pete Brown, a spokesperson for de León, said Tuesday that the councilman had not been involved in the report to police and had not been interviewed by detectives. So far no suspects have been identified, Moore said. “We’ll also look, as far as possible, to understand how such a recording was made and identify, if possible, the person or persons responsible,” he said. The state is separately investigating how the council districts were drawn and whether the process was rigged. Attorney General Rob Bonta has said his investigation could lead to civil liability or criminal charges. The fallout has left City Hall in turmoil and President Biden called on de León and Cedillo to step down. Protesters at City Council meetings have provided a steady backdrop of chants and shouting as they try to increase pressure on the duo to resign.