Richmond POA Gets TRO

Posted on Sunday, February 01, 2004 at 12:00PM
Posted by Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson LLP

The Richmond Police Officers’ Association has obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the Richmond Police Commission from holding public hearings to investigate POA President Chuck Whitney. This result was obtained by Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson partner Alison Berry Wilkinson, due to the PORAC Legal Defense Fund’s authorization to seek injunctive relief in this unusual case.

The Richmond Police Commission is a civilian review body that has jurisdiction only over allegations of excessive force and racially abusive treatment. After the association criticized the commission for being biased and conducting poor investigations, and after the association protested that the commission was violating the Peace Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, Whitney was suddenly targeted for the first ever public hearings by the Commission in its 18 year history.

The allegations stemmed from an arrest that occurred around January 2001, and a shooting that occurred in June 2001. The commission decided to proceed forward with a public hearing despite the fact that nearly three years had passed since the incidents occurred, despite the fact that the complaints were filed well outside the 45-day limitation period imposed by city ordinance, and despite the fact that (1) the shooting was deemed justified and appropriate by the police department and the district attorney’s office, and (2) Whitney’s actions during the January 2001 arrest were deemed appropriate following a departmental investigation.

The Richmond POA and Whitney, with the support of the PORAC Legal Defense Fund, filed for a TRO arguing that (1) the city had retaliated against Whitney for the lawful exercise of his rights under POBR; (2) public hearings were not permitted due to the confidentiality protections provided by Penal Code section 832.7; and (3) that the statute of limitations contained in Government Code section 3304 had expired.

The Contra Costa County Superior Court was extremely concerned about the fact that the police commission intended to subject Whitney to a public interrogation to investigate the old complaints in retaliation for his exercise of lawful rights. That, coupled with the fact that the commission’s jurisdiction over the complaints was in question, resulted in a temporary restraining order being granted that prevents the city from conducting any investigation or holding hearings of any nature on the two complaints.

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