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Obtaining Procedures Manual

Obtaining Procedures Manual

Q: I am trying to get a copy of the Officer Safety Manual from the California Highway Patrol.  I do work investigating accidents.  The particular accident I am investigating is a Traffic accident.  The officers on scene state that they followed procedures set forth in the
Officer Safety Manual.  I called the CHP to obtain a copy and was told that this manual is not available to the public as it covers police procedures.  I told them what I wanted it for and said that they could redact the sections of concern.  They still will not allow me to access the information I need.  How do I get this information?

A: Government Code section 6254(f) of the Public Records Act contains an exemption for, among other things, the “security procedures” of any law enforcement agency, which would include the California Highway Patrol. It is not clear if the manual you want would be covered by this exemption.  In one case, the California Court of Appeal – applying cases interpreting the federal Freedom of Information Act — said that an office “manual” that contains “law enforcement material” in the sense that it provides the agency’s officers with “methods for enforcing the law” are exempt from disclosure under section 6255 of the PRA, which exempts records where the public interest in non-disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure because, the court said, “[i]t is an unassailable proposition that disclosure of law enforcement materials which when revealed assist in thwarting and circumventing the law is not in the public interest.”  Eskaton Monterey Hospital v. Myers, 134 Cal. App. 3d 788, 793 (1982).  That case did not address section 6254(f).

But in another case the California Court of Appeal ordered the CHP to disclose portions of its manuals.  Northern Cal. Police Practices Project v. Craig, 90 Cal. App. 3d 116 (1979).  In that case:
“The material sought by plaintiffs [was] utilized by the patrol in training its officers and [was] compiled in four separate documents:
(1) “Enforcement Tactics” (HPG 70.6) explaining the general objectives of the patrol, officer investigative use of senses, enforcement procedures including officer-violator contact, search and handcuffing techniques, the use of firearms, patrol vehicle operations, and hostage incidents;
(2) “Weapons Training Manual” (HPM 70.8) describing weapon utilization policies, weapon training and practice, maintenance, chemical agent transportation and use;
(3) “Personal Weapons and Physical Methods of Arrest Guide” (HPG 70.13) depicting methods of unarmed combat, and detailing methods of arrest, search, and handcuffing techniques;  and
(4) “Enforcement Policy” contained in General Order 100.68. That order is merely a cover document describing speed law enforcement guidelines, Vehicle Code enforcement, and assistance to motorists. To that order there are 18 annexes which detail CHP responsibilities (Annex A), excessive speed enforcement guidelines (Annex B), minimum speed enforcement guidelines (Annex C), off-road vehicle enforcement policy
(Annex D), freeway stopping of patrol vehicle (Annex E), transport of ill and injured persons (Annex F), arrest policy and procedures (Annex G), release from arrest procedures (Annex H), arrest, handcuffing, and search techniques (Annex I), chain and snow tire enforcement policy (Annex J), illegal alien entry arrests (Annex K), county ordinance enforcement policy (Annex L), response to private citizen arrests (Annex
N), United States mail carrier enforcement policy (Annex O), controlled substance arrest (Annex P), pursuit policies (Annex Q), bicycle racing (Annex S), and blocking railroad crossings (Annex T).”

Id. at 118-119.  The CHP claimed the materials were exempt because they “described vehicle stop techniques, specific methods of arrests, handcuffing and search procedures, when the patrol would stop speed violators, when it would institute and continue pursuits, and described officer positions and weapon use during attempted arrests. The CHP asserted that disclosures of the materials would increase the tendency for highway users to violate the speed laws, increase attempted escapes from arrest situations necessitating pursuits, and would enable miscreants to counter law enforcement methods used in search, arrest, and handcuffing, thus endangering both the officers involved and the public.”  Id. at 119.

The trial court ordered the disclosure of General Order 100.68 and Annexes A, E, F, H, J, K, L, N, O, P, S, and T, but found all remaining materials to be matters related to security procedures, and sustained the CHP claim of exemption.  Although noting that some portions of the nondisclosed material did not deal with security procedures, and are matters of common sense, the trial court found that “the gravamen of the document” was found to deal with the protection and security of the officers and others, and thus refused to order disclosure of the documents or the segregation and disclosure of any nonsensitive material of common knowledge.  Id.  The Court of Appeal affirmed that part of the trial court’s order requiring disclosure of some of the records, and it also reversed that part of the trial court’s order refusing to segregate the nonsensitive from the sensitive information.  The Court of Appeal held that “where nonexempt materials are not inextricably intertwined with exempt materials and are otherwise reasonably segregable therefrom, segregation is required to serve the objective of the PRA to make public records available for public inspection and copying unless a particular statute makes them exempt.”  Id. at 124.

To support its decision, the Court of Appeal relied on another case against the director of the CHP that held “that the CHP is required by the PRA to make available for public inspection and copying its procedural regulations governing the investigation of citizen complaints about the conduct of CHP personnel.”  Cook v. Craig, 55 Cal. App. 3d
773, 784 (1976).

You might cite the these two cases — Northern Cal. Police Practices Project v. Craig and Cook v. Craig — to support your contention that the CHP cannot refuse to disclose the entire Office Manual but, at most, must redact any truly sensitive “security procedures” and provide you with the rest.

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