1990.02.21: Oral History Interview with Miguel F. Garcia II (California State Archives, State Government Oral History Program) [Pitchess Case]



Before we move on, have any of the recent decisions here in California having to do, I think specifically, with the right of privacy of police officers undermined any of this law? Any of this kind of redress that the citizen has against police forces or police officers that use

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excessive force?


Well, it’s an interesting question, and it’s an interesting answer, because I think that more than the decisions of the court undermining my work in Pitchess was the response of the law enforcement agencies themselves. Once the supreme court decided Pitchess v.Superior Court, César Echeverría real party in interest, May 1973, police agencies had to follow the law and had to make this information available. And it had its impact. They had to develop discovery units, they had to assign law enforcement officers specifically to come to court and respond to these motions. Because literally thousands of these motions were being made every day once word got out that this was a case on the books.

The police agencies chose not to deal with that. And instead, en masse—maybe, I believe, it was 1975—the Los Angeles Police Department alone destroyed twenty-five years of these records, five and a half million pages. And it was, I believe, three tons of the very documents that the decision in Pitchess said were

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discoverable. In addition, the law enforcement lobby went to the legislature, had had laws passed so that now it is a bit more difficult to obtain this information. They changed their record-keeping procedures. So that now, instead of keeping verbatim interviews of the complainants and the witnesses, they keep 5 × 7 cards with the names of those individuals and the decision that is made after all the interviews are done.

The Los Angeles Police Department was not the only department who went ahead and illegally destroyed these documents. San Jose, San Francisco, so many. When I argued Pitchess—and I keep calling it Pitchess now because that is the name of it that has been accepted and adopted—in that case there were briefs filed, as friend of the court briefs against my position, by San Francisco, by San Jose.

Altogether there was about ten major entities that sided with the sheriff for Los Angeles County. For me, it was three professors—two from UCLA [Andrew H. Fischer and Leon  Letwin ] and one from USC [Richard Wasserstrom]—

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and the public defender’s office. But we were successful.

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