It’s on the Name Tag: Name and Rank of Peace Officers in Investigative Report Not Confidential
On July 23, 2013, the First District of the California Court of Appeal held that police officer identities and ranks in investigative reports unrelated to discipline or personnel actions are discoverable under the Public Records Act.
In Federated University Police Officers Association v. Superior Court, several news outlets sought to discover an investigative report authored by a consultant to the University of California regarding the use of pepper spray by campus police during student protests at UC Davis in 2011. 14 officers were ordered by their chief to participate in interviews for the report, and were advised that information provided to the consultant would not be used in any disciplinary proceeding. No officers who were the target of citizen complaints or internal affairs investigations were interviewed. The report did not recommend discipline of any officer, and was directed at UC Davis administration-level decision-making. A related task force report concluded that several officers performed improperly, but did not recommend discipline. These reports were ultimately released to the news outlets with name and rank of involved officers redacted.
The officers’ union contended that name and rank information was protected from disclosure by both Penal Code section 832.7, which prohibits disclosure of peace officer personnel records, and by Government Code section 6254(c), which prohibits disclosure of certain personnel records pursuant to Public Records Act requests. The Court found that names and ranks were not related to citizen complaints protected from disclosure by section 832.7, as the reports were not the result of the investigation of any citizen complaint and did not recommend discipline of any officer, and did not describe discipline of any specific officer under Penal Code section 832.8. The Court also found that officers’ identities and ranks were not private, intimate details that constitute personnel files protected from disclosure by section 832.7 or Government Code section 6254(c); after all, the Court noted, peace officers are required to wear name tags unless working undercover, and routinely identify themselves while performing their duties. The fact that certain officers might face internal affairs investigations or discipline did not mean that basic name and rank information was made private.ShareThis