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Law Enforcement Labor Attorneys Blog

CORRECTING LIE DURING SAME INTERVIEW SAVES OFFICER’S JOB

On December 2, 2013, a complainant alleged that an officer of the Hutchinson, Kansas Police Department had arrested her in late November for a DUI violation. The complainant said that the officer later telephoned her at home, sent her several text messages, and generally engaged in harassing conduct. The Department interviewed the officer, who admitted visiting the home of the complainant after the DUI arrest to follow up on the arrest. The officer stated that the complainant made sexual advances towards him, and that he shared the story of the encounter with other officers. The officer stated that he might have “amped” up the story and told an officer only identified as “Officer M” that he got a blow job from the complainant. The officer denied that he actually had received a blow job, and told the Department’s investigator that he did not have any sexual contact with the complainant other than a sexual advance that she made towards him by attempting to grab his crotch, which he rebuffed. A search of the officer’s cell phone revealed a record of a text message to Officer M claiming that the arrestee performed oral sex on him and that he tried to say no, but could not resist. During an interview, Officer M initially denied reading the text message. Later in the interview, Officer M admitted reading the text message. When asked why he lied when he was first asked the question about text messages, Officer M said, “’Cause I didn’t wanna get nobody else in trouble. I didn’t want to actually be a part of it.” When the City fired...

IS INFORMATION ON YOUR PERSONAL CELL PHONE SUBJECT TO PUBLIC DISCLOSURE?

Today (August 27), the Washington Supreme Court issued a long awaited decision. This decision addresses whether text messages sent and received by a public employee on a personal cell phone and whether call and text message logs maintained by a employee’s cellular carrier are public records of the employee’s employer, which must be disclosed under Washington’s Public Records Act (PRA), RCW 42.56. This case was filed by a detective employed in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. The detective had requested Pierce County to produce “any and all of Mark Lindquist’s cellular telephone records for number 253-861-[XXXX] or any other cellular telephone he uses to conduct his business including text messages from August 2, 2011.” A second request sought the same information for June 7, 2010. The telephone number in the requests was for Lindquist’s personal cellular telephone. In response to the requests, Mark Lindquist provided the County with call and text logs obtained from his cellular carrier. The County provided the detective with redacted call and text logs, but not with any text messages. The detective was not satisfied and brought suit in Superior Court against Pierce County seeking to have the court do an in camera inspection of the logs and the actual text messages to see if any were public records that had to be disclosed. Lindquist intervened and asked the court for an injunction blocking disclosure of any further information. The superior court dismissed the lawsuit finding, as a matter of law, that records of private cell phone use can never be public records under the PRA. The detective appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed....