The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has a list of nearly 300 deputies that have been accused of misconduct, dishonesty or violent actions. The roster derives its name from the Brady v. Maryland case, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution must alert defendants to favorable evidence.
A roster of moral turpitude
The list can only be viewed by a select few high ranking sheriff’s officials. California has some of the strictest privacy laws on police misconduct and the roster has become part of a California Supreme Court transparency dispute to make records available to prosecutors.
The list was developed during the 2014 Sheriff’s Department scandals as a measure to track the actions of offending officers; the roster only accounts for about 3 percent of the department’s sworn personnel. The most common allegation on the list is dishonesty, followed by domestic violence, immoral conduct and theft.
Recent articles in the Los Angeles Times outlined specific cases where officers were convicted of crimes or found guilty of committing misconduct. In several cases officers were terminated and then were able to get their jobs back after filing an appeal.
The California Penal Code designates peace officer personnel records as confidential material and they cannot be disclosed in criminal or civil proceedings except through a court order.
But this begs the question, what is considered a confidential record? The Penal Code states that records disclosing employee discipline and investigations of disciplinary action are confidential and exempt from disclosure, unless obtained in court through an evidence pursuant motion.
Law enforcement officers perform a fundamental public service and yet they are held accountable to the same laws as regular citizens in addition to a scrupulous employment code of conduct. As law makers attempt to find a balance between protecting officer’s privacy rights and the clashing public demand for police accountability, law enforcement transparency will continue to be a subject of debate.