LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles County police union says the Los Angeles Times could endanger the lives of retired officers if the county releases information the newspaper seeks under the Freedom of Information Act. The Times apparently wants the information for a story about pensions.
The Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers’ Association (PPOA) sued the Los Angeles County Retirement Association (LACERA) and the Times in Superior Court.
The police union wants the county enjoined from sending officers’ “personal and confidential” information to the Times, “unless and until LACERA has notified all of its retired law enforcement officer members of the potential release of information and given an opportunity to those former law enforcement officers to demonstrate a need for anonymity based on a legitimate concern for personal safety which would outweigh the public’s need for such individual disclosure. LACERA declined PPOA’s request to send out notification prior to the release of the information to LA Times and has notified PPOA that it intends to release the information to defendant Times forthwith.”
The PPOA says LACERA responded to the Times’ public records request by agreeing to provide retirees’ names, their average salary at retirement, the “Gross pension amount of LACERA retirees,” the department from which they retired, and the date they retired.
The Professional Peace Officers’ Association represents 2,529 retired county employees, and also represents active officers. It says the Times made a similar records request to Los Angeles County earlier this year, asking for information on public employees’ names, jobs and salaries.
“In response to that request, the County of Los Angeles sent notification to all county employees of the pending disclosure. Employees who were able to present evidence to the county that a legitimate personal safety need exists were exempted from that disclosure. Of the 100,000 employees notified, 518 names were redacted and 318 of those employees were peace officers,” the complaint states.
The PPOA says that among the names redacted were peace officers working undercover, victims of domestic abuse and witnesses in cases involving violent crimes.
“There is a strong public policy in protecting peace officer personnel information. Both the California Supreme Court and the California Legislature have recognized that situations exist where the release of peace officer information would jeopardize the officer’s safety,” the complaint adds.
“Retired law enforcement members do not forego their constitutional right to privacy simply because their names appear in government records. In the instant case, when balancing the need to safeguard former law enforcement officers who can demonstrate a legitimate need for privacy against the public’s immediate need for release of those members’ pension information, the balance must weigh in favor of the need to protect our law enforcement.”
The PPOA is represented by Dennis Hayes, with Hayes & Cunningham, of San Diego.
Neither Hayes & Cunningham nor the Times immediately responded to requests for comment.