U.S. District Judge David K. Winder has ordered the Salt Lake Police Department to turn over internal investigative reports of an incident in which a man claims he was brutally assaulted by two officers.
In a similar case, U.S. District Judge Dee V. Benson recently ruled that a police department's internal affairs were confidential and could not be used as evidence in a police brutality case.However, the Utah Supreme Court ruled two years ago that when a police officer has been involved in a public incident such as a shooting, the public has a legitimate interest in the officer's reputation, which would be reflected in his personnel files.
The Utah Supreme Court's ruling only applies to cases filed in state court.
The latest decision comes in a lawsuit filed in 1991 by Scott A. Prettyman against officers Doug Shupe and Steve Bankhead, arising from an Aug. 15, 1990, incident.
Prettyman was a driver for Greyhound Bus Lines and was participating in the Greyhound strike at the time. He was picketing the bus terminal at 160 West South Temple when he claims a bus ran a stop sign and struck him on the left side of his body as he was walking on the sidewalk at about 10:10 p.m.
After a call to the police department, Prettyman waited for the police to arrive. The suit claims that Shupe and Bankhead said they would use Prettyman as an example to strikers and that they were tired of coming to the bus station and filling out reports on incidents there.
The suit requests $1 million actual damages and $1 million punitive damages.
The action claims that Shupe threw Prettyman face down on the hood of Prettyman's car and forcefully twisted his right arm up. When he cried out that he had a serious back injury, which included having rods surgically placed in his back, Bankhead grabbed his left arm and twisted it behind his back up to his head, the suit said.
At another point, it said Shupe swung Prettyman by his right elbow and slammed him into the pavement, fracturing a tooth and bruising a shoulder and elbow. At that time, his hands were cuffed behind his back and he was not resisting arrest, the suit said. It also claims Shupe dropped his weight onto Prettyman's right thigh, injuring his kidney with his knee.
Salt Lake City resisted a motion by Prettyman's attorneys seeking Internal Affairs reviews of the incident and also seeking all records of the police department's Internal Affairs Unit for the past 10 years concerning allegations against officers about excessive force, civil rights violations, assaultive behavior or inappropriate police action.
The city refused to produce the records, claiming information in the documents is privileged.Comment on this story
Winder denied the request for all such records going back 10 years. But he ordered the city, "To make available to the plaintiff . . . all records, reports and other written materials of the Internal Affairs Unit" relating to the Aug. 15, 1990, incident.
He also ordered the department to furnish Internal Affairs information relating to incidents involving either Shupe or Bankhead in which allegations may have been made against either concerning excessive force, civil rights violations, assaultive behavior or inappropriate police action in prior incidents.