Ex-officers sue over release of confidential information

Ex-Office of Public Safety officials sue L.A. County Sheriff's Department over release of confidential files

A group of former officers from a defunct Los Angeles County police organization has filed a lawsuit accusing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department of leaking confidential information to the Los Angeles Times.

The 12-page lawsuit filed by 44 former Office of Public Safety officials centers around a series of Times articles reporting that the Sheriff’s Department had hired employees with a history of misconduct.

After the little-known Office of Public Safety was dissolved in 2010, officers were allowed to transfer to the Sheriff’s Department. But the 280 officers picked included a number of problematic hires, such as employees who had had sex at work, solicited prostitutes or had accidentally fired their weapons, according to The Times report.

Records showed that for nearly 100 hires, investigators found evidence of dishonesty, such as falsifying police records; and nearly 200 had been rejected from other agencies for issues such as past misconduct and failed entrance exams, according to the report.

The lawsuit accuses sheriff’s officials of leaking confidential information to The Times -- information that it says would have included criminal records, medical and psychological histories, and information from polygraph exams, along with other data.

Among the plaintiffs are several officers named in the first Times story published Dec. 1, 2013: Linda Bonner, David McDonald, Niles Rose and Ferdinand Salgado.

The lawsuit also alleges that the former Office of Public Safety officers who were hired were widely viewed with contempt.

“It was universally recognized that former OPS officers, including plaintiffs herein, were considered as the pariah of law enforcement in Southern California,” the lawsuit says. “Statements such as ‘the OPS is comprised of cooks and bottle washers’ were widespread and epidemic.”

This attitude, the lawsuit asserts, is what would have compelled sheriff’s officials to disclose confidential information to The Times.

The sheriff’s officers “believed they had a reason to publicly embarrass and humiliate former OPS officers, including plaintiffs herein, by disclosing to the public the aforesaid private and confidential information to justify their actions and to paint them as unworthy of law enforcement positions" with the Sheriff's Department, the lawsuit alleges.  

Contacted late Friday evening, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the department had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

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