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California Public Interest In Peace Officers' Identity And Activities, Outweigh Statutory Exemption

The Los Angeles Times (Times) sought review of an appellate denial for the release of peace officer information under the California Public Records Act (Act). The disclosure was ordered pending a specificity determination by the Superior Court.

The Times requested all peace officer appointments under the Act from 1991 to 2001 seeking names, bith dates, specific departments, dates and reasoning if the officers were terminated, in an attempt to determine department transfer trends and attrition rates. The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (Commission) denied the request claiming that the information was exempt under the Act as personnel records. The Times petitioned for the disclosure but amended the request to exclude birth dates. The Superior Court ordered the production.,The Commission appealed and the Appellate Court reversed the production order ruling that the Act exempted any information Which "would constitute an unwanted invasion of personal privacy" and also deemed the information exempt as "employment history." The Times sought review.

On review, the Supreme Court of California held that the requested information was not sought for any personal or sensitive issues protected under the Act and that public interest outweighed exemption, and that legislative intent did not reflect the information to be classified as "personal data." The court remanded for disclosure after a court determination as to specific items' nondisclosure entitlement. One dissent disagreed with the interpretion of plainly stated statutory exemption and questioned possible safety issues as well as the actual need for disclosure. Another dissent agreed with the production of names but deemed al other information exempt as employment history. See: Commission on Peace Officer Standards 1 and Training v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County, 165 P.3d 462; 64 Cal. Rptr. 3d 661 (Cal. 2007).

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Related legal case

Commission on Peace Officer Standards 1 and Training v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County