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Confidential deputy misconduct may be shared with prosecutors, court rules

August 26, 2019

Los Angeles, CA – Today the California Supreme Court issued a decision in support of allowing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to release a list of deputy misconduct to the L.A. County District Attorney. This decision only allows limited information to be shared with the District Attorney’s Office for the purpose of Bradycompliance.

“We are pleased with the decision of the higher court,” said Brian K. Williams, Executive Director of the Civilian Oversight Commission. “The ruling places priority on due process over the State’s peace officer privacy laws. Transparency regarding officer credibility is critical to prosecutors and defense attorneys to ensure a fair process and avoid wrongful convictions. This decision supports best practice reforms and will have an impact on law enforcement agencies throughout the state.”

This ruling is in line with the Civilian Oversight Commission’s resolution, approved March 23, 2017, in support of then-Sheriff McDonnell providing the deputy misconduct list to the District Attorney’s Office. The resolution outlines that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office has a ‘duty under the due process clause of the United States Constitution to provide defendants in criminal cases with evidence within their possession that is favorable to such defendants, including evidence that affects the credibility of witnesses called by the prosecution.’

The resolution goes on to state that the information regarding deputy misconduct should be provided to prosecutors at the earliest possible time because the evidence may impact decisions such as determining whether to file a case that may result in someone’s arrest.

“This decision is important to our ongoing efforts to build transparency and accountability in the Sheriff’s Department,” said Patti Giggans, L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission Chair and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence. “Deputy misconduct is a serious issue, and this is a critical step in working toward a fairer justice system.”

The legal battle began in November 2016, when the deputies’ union went to court to prevent then-Sheriff McDonnell from turning over the list of officer misconduct to the District Attorney. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs vs. Superior Court (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department) et al. S243855 was argued in Los Angeles on June 5, 2019. The California Supreme Court’s opinion that was released on August 26, 2019 concludes that “…the Department does not violate section 832.7(a) by sharing with prosecutors the fact that an officer, who is a potential witness in a pending criminal prosecution, may have relevant exonerating or impeaching material in that officer’s confidential personnel file.” View the complete opinion authored by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye.

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