We are sure you saw the scathing articles in last Sunday’s East Bay Times about the alleged corruption within the Pittsburg Police Department. Oh, and it has hit the TV news now, too. Yeah: Surprise, surprise.
The City of Pittsburg Police Department may have been ignoring gross misconduct of its police officers for decades, and when civil and criminal cases ordered the department to turn over information pertaining to this, the Chief of Police orchestrated a cover up. Allegedly.
However, did you catch what was going on behind the scenes? And the odious implications about what the City of Pittsburg officials are NOT doing about this?
Well, we were curious what this all meant, so we did a little investigating to see exactly what was being implied And guess what? It looks very bad for the City of Pittsburg officials.
According to the article, documentation was officially requested by the county’s Public Defender’s Office through legal processes called a Pitchess motion. What this amounts to is a request for information that’s normally not available via a public records request (such as employee personnel files) that may (or may not) be relevant to a case. Let’s say someone is arrested and claims that the police used unnecessary force or planted evidence. The accused would want to find out if other similar complaints had already been made against the arresting officers. Before being given to a requesting attorney, documents obtained via a Pitchess motion are usually reviewed by a Judge to determine whether they contain pertinent information to the case. This protects the employee’s personal personnel information from being made public if it is irrelevant to the case, but ensures that important evidence is not hidden behind a wall of “privacy” that might change the result of a case.
Apparently, for some time now, the Pittsburg City Manager, Police Chief and City Attorney have not been forthcoming with information requested by Pitchess motions. And the County Public Defender has said she will begin an investigation into past convictions that may have been affected by this. This lack of action speaks volumes about what must be hiding within the Pittsburg Police employee records. If there was nothing of interest in those files there would have been no reason to avoid turning them over to the Judge immediately, without delay. The fact they were not turned over implies that there might be something damaging lurking in those files.
When wrapping your head around this case, remember this:
- A Pitchess motion is used in order to determine whether non-public information may be pertinent to a case.
- Filing this type of motion PROTECTS the privacy of individuals, UNLESS there is information relevant to the associated case.
- If the Judge reviewing these files deems there to be nothing relevant to the case, the files remain sealed and the privacy of the individuals is maintained.
- If salient information is being withheld it may reach far beyond the current case and could re-open previous cases against the City and the Police Department, or could possibly even result in criminal prosecutions.
So, ask yourself this question: Why would the Chief of Police, the City Manager, and the City Attorney not immediately respond to a Pitchess motion, unless they had something to worry about?
Yeah, that’s what we thought…
~ G. Fawkes