Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Court: POBR Guarantees Right to See Complaints, Not Just Summaries

 In Matthew Medina v. State of California, Kasey C. Clark, Chief Counsel for the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA), scored a major victory for peace officers statewide.  The Superior Court case establishes POBR gives officers access to actual complaints against them, not just summaries or abstracts.  Prior to the Court's decision, some law enforcement departments refused to provide officers with actual complaints, providing instead brisk summaries which sanitized complaints often littered with anti-officer rhetoric and personal biases.

In its ruling, the Court stated unambiguously "the right to read the adverse comment [in a personnel file] requires disclosure of the actual adverse comments [] not merely the general nature of the comments." The ruling affirms Sacramento Police Officers Association v. Venegas, the leading case in the Court of Appeal to address peace officers' right of access to their personnel files.  Importantly, the Medina decision joined Venegas in recognizing "some might view a shield of confidentiality as a license to make false allegations of police misconduct."