Court Orders 3309.5 Sanctions for POBR Violations

Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 at 12:00PM
Posted by Alison Berry Wilkinson

Curbing abuses of the internal investigation process has always been an uphill battle. But when the Richmond Police Officers’ Association (POA) and its former president, Chuck Whitney, fought back, they won sanctions under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBR) Act, despite the almost insurmountable hurdle that required them to show that the POBR violation was both malicious and done with intent to cause injury.

With support of the PORAC Legal Defense Fund and the assistance of Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson, the POA and Whitney obtained a judgment from the Contra Costa County Superior Court that imposed both sanctions and attorneys’ fees under Government Code section 3309.5. To our knowledge, this is the first award of sanctions under this statute.

It all started when the association began protesting the inadequate and misleading investigations that were being conducted by the Richmond Police Commission. The association through its then-president Whitney raised many issues concerning whether the civilian review board was trampling the rights of accused officers. Suddenly, in the midst of this acrimonious period, the Richmond Police Commission decided to accept and investigate several incidents that were over two years old, and specifically targeted Whitney.

When Whitney, through his attorney, sought to enforce the statute of limitations contained in Government Code section 3304, the police commission further retaliated against him by declaring that it was going to hold the first ever public investigations and hearings on the allegations.

As reported two months ago, a Temporary Restraining Order was issued by the Contra Costa County Superior Court preventing the public hearings. A permanent injunction has now been issued preventing the commission from holding any public hearings or public investigations on any complaint filed against any member of the Richmond POA. Further, a judgment was issued, ordering sanctions under Government Code section 3309.5. Although the battle to curb the abuses by the police commission caused many headaches to all involved, the court’s order imposing sanctions for the malicious and intentional conduct is a remarkable cure.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.