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No Privacy Rights To Flash Drive Plugged Into Employer’s Computer

Saintamen Edwards, a Miami-Dade County police officer, was arrested and charged with two counts of official misconduct after an investigation revealed she had falsified police records in an apparent attempt to get her husband, Clyde Edwards, fired from his job at a sports apparel and footwear store. Clyde’s boss, Jose Raij, contacted police after he received a phone call from someone identifying herself as Miami-Dade police detective Diann Mich….

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Supreme Court Narrows Cell Phone Searches Even Further

In 2011, police officers arrested four men suspected of robbing a series of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Detroit. One of the men confessed that, over the previous four months, the group (along with a rotating cast of getaway drivers and lookouts) had robbed nine different stores in Michigan and Ohio. The suspect identified 15 accomplices who had participated in the heists and gave the FBI some of…

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Constitutional Protection For Officer’s Affair

You know you’re in for a weighty pronouncement when a court begins its opinion in this fashion: “We are confronted in this case with the ongoing and difficult constitutional question of how much control the government can force individuals to cede over their private lives in exchange for the privilege of serving the public by means of government employment. To be sure, private citizens often must sacrifice some individual…

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Court Grants Inmate’s Request For In Camera Inspection Of Officer’s Personnel File

Jeremy Goodman is an inmate at California State Prison-Solano. He was involved in an incident with Correctional Officer J. Johnson. During a search, Goodman resisted Johnson. As a result of the incident, Goodman was criminally charged with battery on a non-prisoner, possession of heroin in jail, and resisting an executive officer. In his criminal case, Goodman brought what is known in California as a Pitchess motion. A Pitchess motion…

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No Expectation Of Privacy During Raid Of Marijuana Dispensary

Two officers with the Santa Ana, California Police Department were the subjects of an internal affairs investigation based on their conduct during the execution of a search warrant at a marijuana dispensary. The Department initiated the investigation after video recordings of the officers were released to the media. The video recordings were made by the dispensary owners without the knowledge of the officers, who had removed all known recording…

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Brady And The Privacy Of Personnel Records

A bit of backdrop is necessary to understand an important Brady decision recently issued by the California Court of Appeals. In Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the United States Supreme Court held that constitutional due process creates an affirmative obligation on the part of the prosecution, whether or not requested by the defense, to disclose all evidence within its possession that is exculpatory to a criminal defendant….

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Q&A

From Florida Question: I’ve often heard from my union’s legal defense plan that we cannot go to arbitration for a written reprimand because the grievant has no “property loss” and that the arbitrator can’t rescind the written reprimand. Often our members feel like this is an excuse by the legal defense plan because the LDP doesn’t want to spend the money on the arbitration. While a written reprimand doesn’t…

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Officer Has Privacy Rights In Personal Cellphone

Timothy Larios was an officer with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and was assigned to the Shasta Interagency Narcotics Task Force. He was issued a cell phone by the CHP, and he also had a personal cell phone. In September 2014, CHP removed Larios from his position and told him that he was the subject of an internal investigation. During the course of the investigation, Larios was ordered to…

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Q&A

From Washington Question: Are you familiar with cases where IA investigator pre-interviews complainant for two hours before going on tape but makes no reference to the pre-interview or provides any notes on the pre-interview in the IA file? Answer: This is a practice that used to be fairly common, but by now has largely disappeared in the name of transparency of the IA process. We wouldn’t recommend it. From…

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Court Rejects FOIA Requests For Race, Gender Of Supervisors With IA Complaints

In November 2008, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) submitted 20 separate Freedom Of Information Act requests to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for documents generated in connection with internal disciplinary proceedings against officers of specified upper ranks for particular offenses in particular years. For example, one request sought all documents regarding any lieutenant who was disciplined during the year 2007 for “Conduct Unbecoming for inappropriate disciplining…

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Union Entitled To Copy Of Complaint Against Member

Though the case does not involve public safety officers, a recent decision from an administrative law judge (ALJ) of the California Public Relations Board (PERB) could have significant ramifications in the public safety workplace. In the case, the ALJ ruled that employees filing a complaint against a fellow employee do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their complaints. The case began in October 2009, when two community…

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No Privacy Rights If Affair Has On-Duty Aspects

Janelle Perez was a probationary police officer for the City of Roseville, California. Perez was given a patrol assignment and a few months into the assignment, she and another officer, Shag Begley, initiated a personal relationship. At the time, Perez and Begley were both separated from, but legally married to other individuals. On June 6, 2012, Begley’s wife, Leah Begley, filed a citizen complaint alleging that Perez and Begley…

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Publication Of DOB, Height, Weight, Eye And Hair Color Violates Officers’ Rights

Twenty-one-year-old David Koschman died after an April 25, 2004 altercation with R.J. Vanecko, a nephew of Richard M. Daley, then-Mayor of Chicago. Given Vanecko’s political connections, the subsequent Chicago Police Department investigation was highly publicized. Several weeks after the incident, the Department placed Vanecko in an eyewitness lineup, in which five Chicago police officers participated as “fillers.” The officers closely resembled Vanecko in age, height, build, and complexion. When…

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No Privacy Claim For Officer Whose Disciplinary Records Were Released To Press

Donald J. Huston is a police officer employed by the Meriden, Connecticut Police Department. In April 2011, the City released information from Huston’s personnel file to the press during an interview with reporters of the local newspaper. Among the items released was a letter of reprimand Huston received in 2007. Huston alleged that the letter should have been removed from the personnel file after two years, but never was….

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No Privacy Claim For Officer Whose Disciplinary Records Were Released To Press

Donald J. Huston is a police officer employed by the Meriden, Connecticut Police Department. In April 2011, the City released information from Huston’s personnel file to the press during an interview with reporters of the local newspaper. Among the items released was a letter of reprimand Huston received in 2007. Huston alleged that the letter should have been removed from the personnel file after two years, but never was….

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Mixed Bag On Disclosure Of Retiree Home Addresses

Kenneth Fultz submitted a request to the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System for the names and home addresses of retired law enforcement officers or judges, the names and addresses of individuals residing with the retirees, and the names and addresses of the beneficiaries of non-law enforcement retirees who were over the age of 60. In addition, Fultz specifically asked for the first names of law enforcement retirees. The System…

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Are Personal Cell Phone Records Public Documents?

Glenda Nissen is a detective with the Pierce County, Washington Sheriff’s Department. Mark Lindquist is the elected Pierce County Prosecutor. Lindquist has a County-provided cellular phone, which he rarely uses, apparently preferring instead to use his personal cellular phone to conduct government business. When Nissen sued the County on a whistleblower claim, the County produced (1) records showing that Lindquist generally used his County-provided cellular phone less than ten…

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Surveillance Does Not Violate Deputy’s Privacy Rights

David Brock was a deputy with the Douglas County, Nebraska Sheriff’s Department. In 2007, Brock sustained injuries to his neck and shoulder when struggling with a suspect while on duty. Brock filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. As early as May 2007, the County hired private investigators to periodically place Brock under surveillance and to report on Brock’s physical abilities. By February 13, 2009, Brock was released by…

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Public Records Law Does Not Protect Names Of Officers Involved In Shootings

In 2010, the Los Angeles Times asked the City of Long Beach to produce the names of Long Beach police officers involved in officer-involved shootings from January 1, 2005 to December 11, 2010. The Long Beach Police Officers Association, the bargaining agent for all Long Beach police officers, immediately sought an injunction to prevent the release of the names. When a trial court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting…

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Cell Phone Searches After The Supreme Court’s Riley Decision

Some employers have had a practice of ordering employees to produce personal cell phones during an internal affairs investigation. Often, this occurs in the course of an investigation into off-duty conduct, and may or may not include misconduct allegations pertaining directly to the employee’s phone. The Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Riley v. California will likely greatly change the legal landscape in the area. Riley was a criminal…

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Privacy For Personal Email And Cell Phone Records Of Public Officials

The California Court of Appeals recently issued a significant decision on whether records of communications by public officials on private email and cell phone accounts are considered to be “public records” subject to disclosure. The case involved a citizen named Ted Smith, who requested that the City of San Jose produce “any and all voicemails, emails or text messages sent or received on private electronic devices used by Mayor…

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Medical Privacy Claim Under ADA Requires Proof Of Damages

Cheryl Russell was a dispatcher with the City of Mobile, Alabama Police Department. Russell sued the City, claiming that it engaged in an improper medical inquiry in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Under the ADA, an employer can only obtain medical information about an employee if it has reasons that are “job related and consistent with business necessity.” An appeals court found that even if…

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Unredacted Emails Sent Through City Email Accounts Given Privacy Protection

“Chief Concerns” is an email account for messages submitted by employees of the Washington, D.C. Police Department to the Chief of Police through the Department’s internal, employees-only intranet. Chief of Police Cathy Lanier created the email account and announced to the Department employees that her office would hold the identities of employees who send email messages to the account in strict confidence, hoping employees would be less reluctant to…

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Employee Can Waive HIPAA Rights

Gary Hopkins was a correctional officer employed by the Connecticut Department of Correction. On April 24, 2008, he went to a medical clinic as a walk-in patient. After an examination by Dr. Kalipatti Balachandran, Hopkins left the clinic with a copy of his “superbill.” A superbill is an itemized form listing various medical services with code numbers that physicians ordinarily submit to insurance companies for reimbursement. The form lists…

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Mandatory Post-Shooting Breathalyzer Testing of NYPD Officers is Legal

The special needs doctrine permits reasonable warrantless, suspicionless searches when there is a governmental interest that outweighs the privacy interest asserted by the person searched. In Skinner v. Railway Execs Association, 489 U.S. 602 (1989), for example, the governmental interest was ensuring that train engineers not operate locomotives while under the influence of intoxicants and that the engineers, knowing testing would occur in the event of any accident, would…

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