Shredding the Past
Resolution allows police to destroy some internal affairs investigation files
By André Coleman 07/31/2014
The Pasadena Police Department adopted a resolution on Monday night authorizing Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez to destroy some internal affairs files and background files of candidates who were not hired.
The council voted Monday to allow the department to destroy files from investigations conducted from 1991 through 2008 as long as they do not pertain to officer-involved shootings, sexual misconduct, officer integrity or lying.
“We are talking about investigations regarding policy and procedure, conduct unbecoming of a police officer, like using foul language during a traffic stop, tardiness to meetings and inappropriate attire, the stuff that is not really all that bad,” Sanchez said.
However, he said, “We are holding on to files from serious investigations.”
California state law requires police departments to hang onto investigation files for at least five years, which is what most nearby jurisdictions do, including Glendale, Arcadia and Alhambra. Burbank and Los Angeles maintains its records indefinitely.
At a special meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee in June, local residents requested the files be maintained for more than five years. The committee took no action at that time.
“It probably is in the best interest to preserve the records as long as you can,” said Councilman John Kennedy, a member of the Public Safety Committee, which provides oversight of the department. “Certainly you would not want to do anything that unfairly impacts the job requirements or performance of police personnel.”
However, after five years the use of the files becomes extremely limited. California law prohibits complaints concerning officer conduct from being considered for discovery in court cases or matters of litigation if the complaint is more than five years old.
Complaints five years or older also cannot be used in making decision regarding promotions, transfers or disciplinary and must be removed from an officers’ general personnel file.n