Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Court of Appeal Limits Former Officers' POBR Rights

In a carefully tailored decision, the Court of Appeal in Barber v. California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Cal. Ct. App., Feb. 15, 2012) 12 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 1936, held POBR does not entitle a former peace officer to review years of personnel records.  The decision emphasized the plaintiff made a "broad request" to review his personnel records only after he had been terminated.

The plaintiff was an employee with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) until being terminated in April of 2009. Six months after his termination, the plaintiff requested copies of his CDCR personnel records. CDCR denied the request and the plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandamus and a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking copies of the records under POBR.  The superior court denied plaintiff’s requests, and plaintiff appealed.

Government Code section 3306.5, part of POBR, states that an employer of public safety officers shall permit a requesting officer to view or copy personnel files that have or are being used to determine that officer’s qualifications for benefits or disciplinary action.  The Court of Appeal found the right to inspect records only applied to public safety officers and plaintiff was no longer a public safety officer after his termination went into effect.  Because plaintiff made his request for records well after being terminated from CDCR, he was not entitled to access the records. The court, therefore, affirmed the ruling of the lower court and awarded CDCR its costs on appeal.