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Florida Statute Shields Officers’ Names From Disclosure After Officer Involved Shooting

In two separate encounters, crime suspects threatened Tallahassee police officers with violence. Faced with the imminent threat of harm, the officers responded with force, resulting in fa­talities. Following the encounters, the City of Tallahassee revealed its intent to disclose the identities of the police officers to the public. The officers and their union, the Florida PBA, opposed public disclosure of the officers’ identities and sought a declaration from the…

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Discipline Settlement Agreement Not A Public Record

A New Jersey group calling itself Libertarians for Transparent Government obtained minutes of the March 12, 2018 Cumberland County Board Meeting of the Police and Fireman’s Retirement System (PFRS), reflecting the Board’s consideration of an application for special retirement by Tyrone Ellis, a corrections officer employed by the County at its correctional facility. The minutes stated that Ellis had been proposed for termination for conduct unbecoming following an internal…

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Disciplinary Arbitration Decision May Be Subject To Public Disclosure

New Hampshire’s public records act is known as the “Right-to-Know Law.” For many years, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that the “internal personnel practices” exception in the Law shielded disciplinary arbitration decisions from disclosure. In May 2020, the Court changed its mind. The new case involved the 2015 termination of City of Portsmouth police officer Aaron Goodwin. The charges against Goodwin related to his relationship with the…

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Public Records Law Prevails Over Purging Clause In Contract

Since January 1981, the City of Chicago and the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge No. 7, have been parties to a collective bargaining agreement. Section 8.4 of the CBA calls for the purging from employee disciplinary files of materials “five (5) years after the date of the incident or the date upon which the violation is discovered, whichever is longer.” The City destroyed records subject to Section 8.4…

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Officer’s Tampering Conviction Does Not Result In Pension Forfeiture

Thomas Ungard was employed by the City of Williamsport, Pennsylvania as a police officer from 1993 until he was suspended in 2006 and discharged in 2014. During his tenure, Ungard also served as a member and coordinator of the Lycoming County Drug Task Force, which frequently obtained vehicles through criminal and civil forfeiture proceedings. Membership on the Task Force is voluntary, with work done through the District Attorney’s Office….

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Use Of Private Cell Phone Can Create Public Record

A major decision from the California Supreme Court has held that the use of a private cell phone by a public employee for work-related purposes can create a public record. The case began in June 2009, when Ted Smith requested disclosure of 32 categories of public records from the City of San Jose, its redevelopment agency and the agency’s executive director, along with records from certain other elected officials…

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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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Police Shooting Report Mostly Subject To Public Records Disclosure

On March 24, 2012, just after 11:00 p.m., two officers with the Pasadena, California Police Department responded to a 911 call. The caller claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint by two men. Much later, the caller admitted he had falsely reported that the robbers were armed. Responding to the dispatch broadcast, the officers proceeded in their squad car to the area of the alleged crime. As they approached…

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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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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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Names Of Officers In UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident Must Be Disclosed

The Federated University Police Officers Association represents University of California police officers. In the wake of a highly-publicized incident on November 18, 2011, involving the use by officers of pepper spray against protesting students, the State prepared both policy and investigatory reports into the incident. When two newspapers sought copies of the reports, the Association contended that the names of the officers involved in the incident should be redacted…

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No ‘High Level Of Privacy’ In Viewing Porn On Work Computer

Like many public records laws, Vermont’s Public Records Act exempts from disclosure “personal records” in which employees may have privacy interests. The limits of the exemption were recently tested in a case involving the Rutland Police Department. The Rutland Herald learned in 2009 that Rutland Police Department computers had been used to view and store pornography. Three employees were involved, referred to as Employees #1, 2, and 3. As…

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No Obligation To Disclose Minutes If Meeting Only ‘Technically Open’ To Public

Like most states, New Hampshire has a “Right To Know” statute requiring the disclosure of public records. The statute has a number of exemptions, including one for “confidential” information. Generally speaking, communications protected under the attorney-client privilege fall within the exemption for confidential information. The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire filed a Right-To-Know request seeking minutes of a meeting of the Local Government Center (LGC), a public body….

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