Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BART POA Wins Injunction Protecting Identity of BART Officer Involved in Critical Incident

In BART Police Officers Association v. Bay Area Rapid Transit District et al., the BART Police Officers’ Association (BPOA) successfully defended the privacy rights of its members and prevented the unlawful disclosure of the name of an officer under investigation in a critical incident.

The Department sought to release the name of an officer identifying the officer as the subject of a disciplinary investigation following a use of force incident that gained widespread notoriety.

Following a use of force incident, a citizen made a complaint against the officer, and the department made statements to the media that the incident was under investigation. The Department informed the officer that they intended to release the officer’s name to the media, identifying him as the officer under investigation for the incident. The Department informed BART POA it intended to release the officer’s name to the press.

BART POA President Keith Garcia immediately moved to protect the officer’s privacy. BART POA sent a cease and desist letter to the Department and prepared an application for a temporary restraining order. Then the POA secured an agreement from the District to preserve the officer’s privacy until the dispute could be heard by a court on an expedited basis.

Then, on April 17, 2014, the Alameda Superior Court and the parties agreed to a preliminary injunction protecting officer privacy until at least 30 days after the California Supreme Court decides two closely related cases.

The California Supreme Court is considering two important cases about peace officers’ privacy rights. In Federated University Police Officers Association v. Superior Court, the Court will decide whether or not the California Public Records Act can be used to force disclosure of peace officers’ names in a report about the use of pepper spray at UC Davis in 2011.

In Long Beach Police Officers Association v. City of Long Beach, the Court will decide whether the California Public Records Act requires agencies to release the names of officers involved in officer-involved shootings. Together, these cases will establish the legal foundation for how these information requests must be treated in the future. In the meantime, officers can protect their rights by pursuing injunctions like the one BART POA won in this case.

Mastagni Law attorneys Kevin A. Flautt, David E. Mastagni, Jeffrey R. A. Edwards, and Brendon P. Parenti represented BART POA in the matter.