LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies is seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the results of an internal inquiry into the alleged dissemination of photos from the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash sealed once the probe is finished.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs brought a petition last Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Sheriff Alex Villanueva. ALADS then filed additional court papers Monday asking for the TRO. A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.
“The California Supreme Court has recognized that the confidentiality privilege affords peace officers a strong privacy interest in their personnel records,'' the ALADS court papers state. “The damage caused by unlawful disclosure of confidential information is immediate.''
Once such information is in the public domain, there is no practical way to unwind that harm, according to the union. In contrast, the Sheriff's Department and Villanueva will not suffer any harm between now and the time the court determines whether they must comply with “the statutory process for the release to the public of confidential peace officer information,'' the ALADS court papers state.
Villanueva announced in March that an internal affairs investigation was taking place into the conduct of eight deputies who allegedly took photos at the crash site and shared the images within and, in one instance, outside the department.
ALADS' court papers say Villanueva made two statements in May promising to release the results of the internal investigation, including the following on May 20:
“It's an active investigation, it's near its conclusion. We're going through the final stages and once the information is developed and it's done and all the decisions have been made, we've dotted our `I's' and crossed our `T's,' we're going to make the entire investigation public so everybody can read it for themselves. And we'll post it online.''
ALADS, as the employee organization recognized by the county to represent deputies in all matters regarding working conditions, is “beneficially interested in the enforcement'' of the sheriff's duty to refrain from releasing the confidential personnel information of the peace officers represented by the union, according to the petition.
Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in foggy weather in Calabasas.
An attorney for Bryant's widow, Vanessa, is asking LASD to give the “harshest possible discipline'' to those who distributed the photos, the petition states. She filed a legal claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit – against the department earlier this month.
Photo: Getty Images