The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has collected the names of 300 deputies who have a history of past misconduct such as domestic violence, theft, bribery and brutality that could damage their credibility if they testify in court. Sheriff Jim McDonnell wants to send the names to prosecutors, who can decide whether to add them to an internal database that tracks problem officers in case the information needs to be disclosed to defendants in criminal trials, reports the Los Angeles Times. McDonnell’s move has set off a battle that pits the privacy rights of officers against efforts by law enforcement agencies to be more transparent.
The union that represents rank-and-file deputies opposes providing the names to prosecutors and has taken the department to court. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs argues that the disclosure would violate state laws protecting officer personnel files and draw unfair scrutiny on deputies whose mistakes might have happened long ago. An appeals court last week sided with the union, temporarily blocking the Sheriff’s Department from sending names to the district attorney’s office. The battle is being closely watched by other law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, which is considering whether to adopt the same practice. Police departments in at least a dozen counties, such as San Francisco and Sacramento, regularly send prosecutors the names of problem officers.