Op-Ed, 749 words

How I Exposed an Undercover Cop

Spying on protesters is the worst violation of our freedom.

Lacy MacAuley

She was an undercover cop who called herself “Missy.” When I first met her four years ago, I couldn’t have known that the small-framed woman with spiky brown hair and intense eyes was anything but a fellow activist showing up for a protest in Washington, D.C.

I certainly didn’t know she was actually Nicole Rizzi, an undercover cop ordered to secretly spy on peaceful protesters, violate our freedom of speech and assembly, and disregard our right to privacy.

Sure, I thought something was odd about her. She stared just a little too long. Her irreverent sense of humor made the hair stand up on the backs of a lot of necks. Her favorite t-shirt read “OBEY” and it wasn’t clear that she wore it for the irony.

A "selfie" photo of Nicole Rizzi, a.k.a. "Missy," posted to her own Twitter account on March 21, 2013. She posed as a protester at a Keystone XL pipeline demonstration that day.

A “selfie” photo of Nicole Rizzi, a.k.a. “Missy,” posted to her own Twitter account on March 21, 2013. She posed as a protester at a Keystone XL pipeline demonstration that day.

When I looked at her rippling arm muscles, I wondered whether they came from workouts at some spy academy or a downtown yoga studio.

So sure, I did suspect from the start that she could be an FBI agent, a police officer, or something else. But if you start being suspicious of newcomers, every honest newbie will look like an infiltrator. I kept my paranoia mostly to myself.

It turns out that hanging out in bars every so often can make good things happen. One late night in November 2012, I was in a bar in D.C.’s bustling U Street neighborhood when a friend of a friend from out of town pulled up a Twitter account on her phone, @snufftastic. It belonged to a humorous motorcycle enthusiast and cop. She lives in the area, she said, asking if my friend and I knew her.

“I absolutely know who that is,” I said.

The Twitter account was shocking. There was “Missy” tweeting about he daily grind of working for the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department. There were photos of her at the shooting range and a photo of her giant walkie-talkie. There were tweets about “the academy” and “the new morgue.”

There was a comment about her working during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on “ninja assignment,” and a remark that reading Miranda rights isn’t actually required.

A “snuff007” Tumblr account attached to her fan fiction site had a comment about her not dressing for “plainclothes assignments” but wearing “what would blend in.”

Spying on protesters is the worst violation of our freedom. It not only violates the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and right to privacy of the people who are being spied upon, it makes us crazed and paranoid.

One person who turns out to be an infiltrator can keep us pointing fingers at each other for years. It makes us distrustful of people we don’t know, instead of finding safe ways to welcome newcomers and building vibrant social movements.

Distrust can mean slow death for a group of any kind.

I started warning my friends that “Missy” was a cop. Most weren’t surprised. But could she be a police officer attending protests in her free time, I wondered? After all, like all of us, police have the right to protest. Then I noticed a Tweet that complained of working outdoors on March 21, when I saw her at a march to protest the Keystone XL pipeline.

On April 20, she complained again of working outdoors, and she showed up at a protest outside the World Bank.

That’s when I arranged a meeting with Jeffrey Light, a lawyer who works on police misconduct issues. Light brought in another lawyer, Sean Canavan, and the National Lawyers Guild. With the involvement of United Students Against Sweatshops, Light and Canavan filed the case. They also dug up information on “Missy’s” true identity. They concluded that she was an officer named Nicole Rizzi who joined the D.C. police force in 2003.

In early August, we filed a suit against the District of Columbia seeking an injunction to stop this police spying and to find out more about its infiltration program.

It’s the first case that promises to prove that the police systematically spies on activists in our nation’s capital.

Now that we’ve blown officer Nicole Rizzi’s cover, “Missy” won’t be snooping on any more protests. But our First Amendment rights will continue to be thrown under the bus unless we fight to defend them.

Lacy MacAuley is a grassroots activist in Washington and the Institute for Policy Studies media manager. IPS-dc.org
Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

  • Ria

    Seems to me she is regular person just doing her job. If you are a police officer and your boss gives you an assignment, you do it, no questions asked. This is what we all do every day in our daily lives. If you want to be angry, be angry at the screwed up system.

    • AL_Nemesis

      Ria, that doesn’t fly: “… your boss give you an assignment, you do it, no questions asked.” Nope. If it is unethical, immoral or illegal, every individual has an obligation to say raise questions. “Just following orders” isn’t a valid excuse or reason.

      • Ria

        Al, who says she didn’t raise questions? What if she did and her job was at risk if she didn’t do it? Several of her tweets suggested that she was unhappy about what she was doing, didn’t they? She complained about her job and how she didn’t like “working outside”. No one knows the whole story and probably never will. I understand your frustration, however she is just one of the probaby many. She is just the unlucky one that got caught. Continuing to lambast her personally will not fix what’s broken. Time to take your fight to a higher authority.

        • Watson

          “What if she did and her job was at risk?” …then she can find another damn job like the rest of us have to do all the time.

          Consider the moral line you’re drawing. There’s is NO place in life where a person’s personal needs outweigh their moral obligation to their fellow humans.

          It may be questionable to personally attack this individual, but what this individual did was personally deceive a number of other individuals for years on end… for a paycheck. I find the latter far more abhorrent.

        • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

          she complained about the weather … about petty shit … because she’s a whiner, not because she thought what she was doing was wrong

    • un1bomber

      I refuse to believe, as Ria does, that all cops are too stupid to ask questions or understand what is going on. Most to be sure, but not all.

    • layod

      I’ll bet you are a cop.

      • Ria

        you’d lose that bet.

      • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

        cop bootlicker

    • DJaxon

      Ria: Your rationalization is exactly, EXACTLY, what the SS guards used to use as their excuse for wanton murder and genocide during the Holocaust. They were “just following orders”. The system is screwed precisely because people do what they are told, not questions asked. The police are almost always on the side of the power brokers and the establishment and they have a long, long history of being at the center of anti-democratic actions, not to mention violence and murder against those espousing democratic ideals in public.

      • Ria

        Are you really comparing what she did to the Holocaust? Come on. I agree, the system is screwed but calling out this one cops indiscretion won’t change it. Don’t forget, we elected these fools who are taking away our freedoms. Only one way to change that.

        • DJaxon

          No, I am comparing her “ask no questions, just take orders” behaviour, as described and defended by you in your post, as exactly the behaviour of the SS during the Holocaust. She is personally to blame for agreeing to such orders and for being such a wage slave that she would not risk her job in order to do what was right. And no, I did not elect these fools because I have not voted for a demolishcrat or repug in over 20 years.

    • baldy522

      So, if they give her the job of going and killing a bunch of those protesters and their kids, you think that she should just shut up and do it cause that’s what you would do hu? Sounds like you would have been right at home as a Nazi SS. It is all of our responsibility to refuse Unconstitutional and immoral orders every single time! And until people start standing up the these Criminal scumbags things will not change except for the worse.

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  • Johnny Dollar

    “…it makes us crazed and paranoid.”

    Seems exactly like any other day on this website.

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  • rtdrury

    Things aren’t getting better, so something has to change. I propose we lower our tolerance for police spying and criminalize it. There are few acts so very recognizable as state oppression of the people. To criminalize it means to work to change the law but also work to propagate the value in the people of our right and mandate to prevail over the state. We propagate this value and all the related values in the school curriculum and we enforce it in the media. There’s no other choice. The people will remain oppressed until the people stand up and act. Resist the petro-opiate pusher’s siren song to stone us and distract us. We have to resist that to achieve our agenda to recognize and satisfy our needs. Exciting times for the people. We’re reaching for our nirvana, and oops, the elites must be shoved aside since sociopaths just don’t get it.

    • socrates2

      rtdrury, believe me we have tried indirectly.
      They’re called whistleblower laws. The problem as you have recently witnessed is that we have criminalized the whistleblowing of criminal acts!

  • sfmistress

    cut their budget

  • Yes_I_amanoffdutypoliceofficer

    Not sure about the context but the part about Miranda rings true. The Miranda Warning doesn’t have to be issued unless the arrested person is being questioned about the offense for which they are arrested.

    • socrates2

      Yes, it’s even worse than that.
      Sure, the comments made in violation of Miranda cannot be used by the prosecutor in the case in chief.
      BUT, BIG, HUGE BUT. If the defendant decides to take the stand in her/his own defense, BANG, the non-Mirandized statement comes in to impeach them.
      So it’s an end-run by police that keeps, and pre-empts, the accused from exercising their right to testify in their own defense. This is the very reason police have been encouraged in academy and continuing ed courses to elicit such un-Miranda-ed statements…
      It’s a despicable practice.

  • 420forest

    Weak minds fall prey to being the product of their environments. Lack of
    family values instilled as a child? A general distrust in the public
    comes from the system feeding them such a large amount of propaganda on a
    daily basis, like most good Americans, they actually believe it. Their
    work and co-workers become their support system and family. The fringe
    benefits alone would make anyone envious. To leave it would be
    unthinkable, forget the economy. The atmosphere they work in has been
    modified to replicate the military system, just another psy-op. where
    you would die for your partner/brother/sister, or citizen in “combat”.
    If I need to explain that, you’d never understand anyways. If she felt
    it’s that wrong, thank God for the WhistleBlowers Act, we all know that
    works! I’d expect a police presence, undercover, in EVERY group
    (especially in DC) and it really doesn’t bother me……to much,…sort
    of, but it shouldn’t. People are getting shat on, and they are The
    People too. A tipping point will be reached at some point when TSHF,
    violence will not help anyone but the string pullers. Cooler heads will
    prevail, Must Prevail!

    NON-VIOLENTLY. Peace. I expect the tens of thousands of spammers on the payroll to slam posts like this so
    I look outnumbered and wrong. Oh, wait, it’s Sunday, make that 100’s of
    thousands of paid Truth slammers spammers, bought by the Tax-Man near

  • http://wiseoldsnail.org/ wiseoldsnail

    i, for one, am so glad yet another lying cop is outed to the public . we need pictorial databases of every cop in every town … with their background history of abuses … thanks for noticing this creep, and for taking time to write about it.

  • Rogoraeck

    You have to understand, that today if your general IQ is above room temperature, you’re over qualified to be a cop!

    • OhMatt

      As has been upheld by courts! You can’t be a good student/high IQ and still be admitted onto a police force!

      • Rogoraeck

        You can???
        That’s a first!

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  • Beth Wallace


  • Dago T

    Oh my gosh, does this selfie pic glamorize the evil-doer too much? Where is the outrage?

  • Hans Frank

    That was a dumb thing to do. You should not have approached Rizzi and confronted her, but used her. You could have spoon-fed her bad information that could have led her and her handlers astray and caused them to commit resources away from the real fight. You cloud have caused her to expose more of her handlers and fellow operatives in the field and used those as well.

    So as it stands your counter-intelligence effort brings no fruit.

  • Anela Tea-ana Claiborne

    I never been the undercover but Im seeing how it goes in 3 d thats for sure

  • Diva39

    Do you want Nicole dead? Because you may have just signed her death certificate. What if her safety is now compromised in her job because you so brashly and haplessly leaked this over the internet?! I agree, what a waste to bother using valuable police resources on protesters… but what if you just got her killed while she was undercover in a drug bust? Or something actually important? That’s blood on your hands. I hope you see that.