On Tuesday, a California police union filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents and others, alleging that the UC Irvine Police Department illegally collected communications of UC employees, police officers and the public.
The Federated University Police Officers’ Association, or FUPOA, representing more than 250 UC police officers, filed the class action lawsuit against the UC Regents, the UC Irvine Police Department, or UCIPD, Assistant Police Chief Jeffrey Hutchison, Police Chief Paul Henisey and Johnson Controls Inc., a facility services corporation based out of Wisconsin.
According to the lawsuit, advanced audio and visual recording devices were installed throughout the UCIPD police station to collect communications without the consent of those recorded.
The UC Regents approved and funded the device installation by Johnson Controls Inc. under the direction of Hutchison, Henisey and UCIPD to install the devices, the lawsuit alleges.
“We have tried to resolve this by any method we have at our disposal,” said David Mastagni Jr., an attorney representing FUPOA. “We asked them to immediately turn off cameras and audio recording (devices) … asking to meet and confer, we sent a demand to stop and sent a letter asking not to destroy evidence and recordings.”
In January, Kevin Flautt, an attorney representing FUPOA, sent demands to Henisey requesting the university cease and desist the recordings. The recording activity was discovered in December 2013.
FUPOA also filed a public records request asking UCIPD to release all information regarding the purchase, installation and operation of the recording devices and information on if and when the recordings were accessed.
According to the lawsuit, UCIPD deleted several months of recordings upon discovery of the devices.
The devices were placed in areas where plaintiffs possessed a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their communications, such as hallways and bathrooms, and were strong enough to record through interior walls of the police department building, the lawsuit says.
“(This case) should not be looked at solely in the context of law enforcement managers eavesdropping on rank and file police officers,” said David Mastagni Sr., managing partner of law firm Mastagni Holstedt. “It should be looked in the point of view of the regents and (the police’s) managers in the UC system conducting surveillance on everyone.”
Cathy Lawhon, a spokesperson for UC Irvine, said in a statement that the campus denies the allegations in general and will vigorously defend against them.
UCIPD and the university could not be reached for comment before press time.
Johnson Controls Inc. could not be immediately reached for comment, but the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the company would not comment on the pending litigation.
In a press release, FUPOA said the lawsuit was necessary to protect staff, students, faculty and the public from the violation of their privacy rights.