Friday, August 29, 2014

Court of Appeal Enforces One-Year Discipline Limitations Period Even Though Officer's Identity Unknown

On August 25, 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued a decision in Pedro v. City of Los Angeles. The court held the department's ignorance of an accused officer's identity does not delay the one-year statute of limitations for disciplinary actions.

In Pedro, a man alleged an officer conducted private business on two occasions. He also alleged the officer treated him discourteously. The department charged the officer with using a city vehicle to inappropriately transport a member of the public, discourteous treatment of the public, and making a misleading statement to a supervisor. The department temporarily relieved the officer from duty more than a year after the man complained to the department.

The court granted the officer's writ of mandate challenging the allegations. The court found the allegations were time-barred. Under the Peace Officer Procedural Bill of Rights Act, the one-year period begins to run when a person authorized to initiate an investigation discovers, or with reasonable diligence should have discovered, an allegation of misconduct. The court ruled the limitations period for the allegations of misusing a city vehicle and discourteous treatment began when the man complained to the department. Although the officer was not identified as the subject of the complaint until a later date, the court held the department could have discovered the officer's identity with reasonable diligence. The court also held the limitations period for the misleading statement began when the officer made the statement, not when the department determined the statement was misleading.