LOS ANGELES (CN) - Former officers from the defunct Office of Public safety have accused the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department of leaking confidential information to the Los Angeles Times, which used it to identify them in series of articles about problem hires.
More than 40 former officers of the Office of Public Safety sued Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in Superior Court on Tuesday.
The 12-page lawsuit cites a series of articles the Times published about alleged misconduct in the Sheriff's Department, by deputies and jailers.
The Times reported that some of the officers they examined had been hired prostitutes, cheated polygraph tests used to during the hiring process and had a history of lying or falsifying police statements.
Named as problem applicants in the story were David F. McDonald, Ferdinand C. Salgado, Linda D. Bonner, and Niles L. Rose, all of whom were hired as jailers. They are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed this week.
The officers claim that with the help of county or Sheriff's Department officials an unidentified county of department employee leaked their confidential records to the Times.
Calling the dim view of the Office of Public Safety "widespread and epidemic," the officers say it is "no secret" that Sheriff's Department officials treat them with disdain.
After the Office of Public Safety was shut down to cut costs in 2010, its officers were allowed to apply for transfers to the Sheriff's Department.
In late 2013, the Times published a series of articles highlighting 280 of the 400 applicants to the department.
A Dec. 2, 2013 article was headlined: "Sheriff's Department Hired Officers With Histories of Misconduct."
The Times reported that 188 officers had been rejected for other law enforcement jobs; 29 successful applicants had been fired or asked to resign from their previous jobs; and 15 officers had attempted to manipulate the county polygraph examinations.
Others had been disciplined or had or exhibited signs of dishonesty, the Times reported.
Articles included photographs of several named plaintiffs, and private and confidential information they had handed over during the county's background checks.
The checks included information on prescription drug or illegal drug use, criminal records, medical and psychological examinations, Social Security numbers and financial records, according to the lawsuit.
County officials know the identity of the County or Sheriff's Department employee who leaked the information to the press, but they have neither fired, disciplined nor prosecuted the employee, according to the lawsuit.
The officers say they believe officials "actively aided and abetted" that employee.
It is "universally recognized" that the named plaintiffs were "considered as the pariah of law enforcement in Southern California," they say in the complaint.
"Statements such as 'the OPS is comprised of cooks and bottle washers' were widespread and epidemic," the lawsuit states. "It was no secret that deputy sheriffs ... considered the former OPS officers, including plaintiffs herein, to be substandard police officers and/or not fit nor qualified for deputy sheriff positions."
In 2011, the former officers filed a civil rights complaint against the county making that point.
According to the Courthouse News Service database, the complaint was filed in Orange County then removed to L.A. Federal Court.
Plaintiffs in the new complaint seek a jury trial, and damages for civil rights violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and privacy invasion.
They are represented by Joel Baruch of Irvine.
Neither the county nor the Sheriff's Department immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.
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