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LA Times sues Sheriff's Department over withholding records on deputy misconduct

Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Times has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, alleging that the Sheriff's Department has repeatedly refused to turn over public records, including those about deputies involved in misconduct or shootings.

The landmark Senate Bill 1421 undid decades of secrecy 18 months ago by opening up previously confidential records about law enforcement officers involved in shootings or other serious uses of force, as well as those who committed sexual assaults or acts of dishonesty. And yet, the lawsuit says, L.A. County "continues to withhold records" on hundreds of deputies.

"The county and the Sheriff's Department are just continually refusing to provide access to these important records," said Kelly Aviles, an attorney representing the Times. "We've gotten almost nothing in the 18 months since we've filed those requests."

The Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A county spokeswoman, however, said in a statement that L.A. County is "committed to fulfilling its responsibilities" under the California Public Records Act.

"Every department -- including the Sheriff's Department -- is expected to live up to the transparency that the law requires and the public has a right to expect," the statement said. "Beyond that, the county does not comment on pending litigation and will not address the specific allegations in this lawsuit."


The day SB 1421 went into effect, the Times submitted various requests for information to the Sheriff's Department.

According to the lawsuit, the Sheriff's Department improperly denied most of them, saying they were too broad or otherwise exempt. It agreed to produce SB 1421 records only for deputies the Times could identify by name.

But even for the 325 deputies that the Times did identify by name, the county has produced "almost no records," the lawsuit says.

The department has produced files "for just two deputies and responded that approximately 17 other deputies had no disclosable letters of discipline," the lawsuit says. "Information about the other more than 300 officers specifically identified by the Times remains undisclosed."


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