Recently at a PORAC Executive Committee meeting, we discussed how public safety, mainly PORAC, is proceeding to combat the recent pension initiative filed by Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio. As you know, PORAC has been working with several statewide labor groups for a number of years to fight the never-ending barrage against all public employees. One of the primary groups that PORAC has been a part of is Californians for Retirement Security (CRS). PORAC has a seat on the Executive Committee within CRS and is the primary organization called upon for decisions related to public safety. Through CRS, we have hired the most knowledgeable strategists on how best to respond and combat all of the anti-public-employee rhetoric, including this initiative. There are several committees within CRS, including public and media relations and communications, just to name a few.
Shortly after the Reed/DeMaio initiative was filed with the California Secretary of State, CRS immediately began dissecting the initiative, and our strategists are determining our best response. While we await the Attorney General’s title and summary, CRS, PORAC and all of the affiliated groups will continue to strategize on our best response. As of this writing, this specific initiative has not qualified for signature gathering. With that said, be advised that at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will be providing all of you with educational material to share about not signing this initiative.
People v. Johnson
The California Supreme Court issued an important decision early last month, safeguarding the privacy of peace officer personnel records. PORAC LDF, along with and at the request of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, submitted amicus briefs, resulting in a major victory that further secures the confidentiality of personnel records for all peace officers throughout California.
This case originated in San Francisco, where the Superior Court ruled that in criminal cases where a police officer is a key prosecution witness, the district attorney should have unfettered access to the witness officer’s entire personnel file to ensure that all Brady material is located and produced. Essentially, a Pitchess motion would not be required when seeking a review of peace officer personnel records in this context. The Superior Court also held that Penal Code Section 832.7 is unconstitutional to the extent that it prevents the prosecution from gaining unrestricted access to peace officer personnel records in order to comply with Brady.
The matter went up on appeal, and eventually found its way to the California Supreme Court. PORAC LDF funded, supported and submitted amicus curiae briefs the entire way, seeking to overturn the Superior Court’s decision. At the Court of Appeal level, the Superior Court’s decision was upheld. Review by the Supreme Court was then sought, and the Supreme Court decided to hear the case.
Fortunately, after hearing the arguments, the California Supreme Court agreed with the position proffered by PORAC LDF and found in relevant part:
- The DA does not, and should not, have direct access to peace officers’ entire personnel files under 832.7 P.C. to search for potential Brady material.
- Trial courts should utilize the long-established process of Pitchess motions as the appropriate means of Brady compliance.
- Pitchess and Evidence Code Sections 1043 through 1047 reflect that peace officers have strong privacy interests in their personnel records and that such records should not be disclosed unnecessarily.
This was a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, this decision marked a very good day for the privacy rights of our members. These are the tough decisions that our trustees are faced with each month. PORAC is the leader throughout California in protecting peace officers. This is just one of the many instances where PORAC and PORAC LDF stood up for all of us. I would like to commend PORAC Legal Defense Chair Fred Rowbotham and all of our trustees and staff for their continued dedication to all of public safety throughout this great country.
Although last month we recognized our 25 PORAC scholarship winners in PORAC Law Enforcement News, this is the month we present most of the recipients with their awards at their local PORAC chapter meetings. This year PORAC received more than 180 scholarship applications. Over the past five years, PORAC has received more than 1,000 applications and awarded over $200,000 to the children of our members. All of these applicants and scholarship recipients are our future. I would like to commend all of the parents of our applicants and, most of all, every one of these young adults. Congratulations to all of you.