Senator Leno to Police Officers 
"Privacy? You Don't Need No Stinking Privacy!"
by ALADS Board of Directors

San Francisco state Senator Mark Leno has introduced a bill written by the ACLU,  SB 1286, which seeks to roll back longstanding privacy protections for the personnel files of law enforcement officers.  It seems only fitting that standing next to him at the bill's announcement were some of the very San Francisco Supervisors who voted to enact a " Day of Remembrance" for a career criminal shot and killed by police officers after he refused to drop a knife he had just used to severely stab an innocent civilian.
There is no crying public need for police officers' personnel files to be open to the scrutiny of news organizations and the general public---but Senator Leno is seizing on the mistrust that has been whipped up against law enforcement to eviscerate this protection of privacy enacted by  Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act in 1977.
It is ironic that in the very state where the ACLU and "progressives" are  cheering on Apple for refusing to unlock a phone of a terrorist who murdered 14 people, those same groups eagerly seek to take away the real privacy rights of those who protect and serve, even writing the very bill to do so.
Senator Leno and his supporters repeat once again the claim this is necessary to foster public confidence in the police disciplinary system given the concern about police misconduct problem.  That very same argument was heard by the California Supreme Court in 2006 in  Copley v. Superior Court and labeled "unpersuasive".  Instead, the court reiterated its prior decisions which justified withholding the records as "policy considerations that may favor confidentiality, such as protecting complainants and witnesses against recrimination or retaliation, protecting peace officers from publication of frivolous or unwarranted charges, and maintaining confidence in law enforcement agencies by avoiding premature disclosure of groundless claims of police misconduct."
There is a method for accessing police personnel files known as a  Pitchess motion, where a Judge examines a law enforcement officer's personnel file upon being persuaded by a motion that the file contains disciplinary records or complaints that may be relevant to a pending case.  However, there is a limit to that privacy invasion.  Several months ago, in a case arising from San Francisco, a unanimous California Supreme Court swiftly rejected the notion that prosecutors who seek to turn over all exculpatory material on a case should therefore have routine access to an officer's personnel file without court permission.  The  court wrote "giving the prosecutor routine access to their confidential personnel records, would not protect their privacy interests - to the fullest extent possible."
It is brutally ironic that this is the same Senator Leno who was the author of the  2015 bill SB 178, which not only barred police access to the electronic devices of suspects without a court order, but went much further than the US Supreme Court ruling of  Riley v. California on the issue by severely restricting when and how police could access those devices.  The  quote by Senator Leno as to why the bill was needed is priceless, given his current attempt to destroy the privacy of police personnel records "In Sacramento, privacy is not a partisan issue,"  said Leno. "It's a constitutional issue."
Well, apparently, that sentiment by Senator Leno only applies if you are a terrorist or a criminal suspect.  When it comes to the police records of deputy sheriffs or police officers, Senator Leno's motto appears to be "Privacy?  You don't need any stinking' privacy!"
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. To contact the directors, click here.

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