Obtaining names of individuals involved in an incident
Q: A County Sheriff’s Department has put a number of detention deputies on paid administrative leave after an altercation with an inmate, resulting in the inmate’s death. Is it possible to obtain the names of the detention deputies involved?
A: You should be able to get the names of the officers, although you may not be able to get the investigative reports themselves. Police officers’ personnel files are subject to unique protections. Generally one seeking access to police files, including imposed disciplinary measures, can only get it within the context of filing a lawsuit, and the courts have read this as exempting such files from the Public Records Act. However, at least one decision has ruled under similar circumstances that this should not prevent a newspaper from getting the names of the individuals that were involved. The case is New York Times Co. v. Superior Court, 52 Cal.App.4th 97 (1997).