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Deputies’ Photographs Deemed Not Confidential But Discovery Requires a Protective Order

            According to a lawsuit filed by an inmate at LA County Men’s Central Jail, a deputy slammed the inmate’s face against a wall, rendering him unconscious.  That deputy then handcuffed the inmate, mounted the inmate’s back, and started to punch the inmate in the face and the back of his head. A second deputy meanwhile allegedly kicked the inmate in the ribs and pepper sprayed him in the face.  The inmate ran a Pitchess motion seeking the official current service photograph identifying each deputy. The trial court granted the inmate’s motion and ordered the Sheriff’s Department to produce a photograph of each deputy to the inmate’s counsel within five days.
            The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision to allow the inmate to view the photographs. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the photographs were not peace officer personnel records protected by Penal Code §832.7 or §832.8.  The Appeals Court also determined that the photographs were not protected because of the officers’ rights to privacy or the official information privilege           
            The Court, however, also found that the potential unsupervised display of the photographs posed an unreasonable risk of harm to the deputies.  Therefore, the photographs would be subject to a protective order such that they could only be viewed at a secure location by potential witnesses under the supervision of a neutral third party and the court. The protective order would also ensure that photographs could not be copied by any witnesses during their viewing.

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