“The photograph has the appearance of one taken during an official domestic violence investigation,” says a police statement. “The Los Angeles Police Department takes seriously its duty to maintain the confidentiality of victims of domestic violence.”
The picture is a close-up of a young woman with her eyes closed and bruises and cuts on her forehead, lips and cheeks. PEOPLE has chosen not to post the picture, due to the nature of the case.
The LAPD said that on Thursday evening it “began receiving numerous inquiries about the release of a photograph associated with a domestic violence incident that occurred on February 8, 2009, involving entertainer Chris Brown.”
As a result, the department began the internal investigation and called on the public’s help for “information concerning the unauthorized release of the photograph.”
“A violation of this type is considered serious misconduct, with penalties up to and including termination,” police said.
Brown, 19, who released a statement saying he is “sorry and saddened,” was arrested on a felony criminal threat charge Feb. 8. His case has not yet been presented by police to prosecutors.
Rihanna, who has not appeared in public since the alleged attack hours before the Grammy Awards, turns 21 on Friday.
• Reporting by KEN LEE