“When we look at what has been going on with police forces around the United States, this is exactly the type of information that the public has a great interest in.”
— Alexandria U.S. Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis, approving the unsealing of internal affairs reports for a police officer defending a suit alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution.
Plaintiff Maurice White, a federal police officer, alleged Loudoun County Deputy Wade Phillips made false statements to obtain an arrest warrant and initiate White’s prosecution in retaliation for a complaint White and his wife filed regarding Phillips’ aggressive, threatening conduct and unlawful physical contact with White during a traffic stop.
The deputy allegedly accosted White as he was returning home from a work shift on Aug. 11, 2013, and attempted to enter the Brambleton planned community where he lived with his wife. Several entrances were blocked that morning for a local triathlete competition. White’s civil rights suit alleged the deputy’s actions caused White to lose his job as a police officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more than eight months and to be placed on administrative leave shortly after regaining his job.
White accepted the defendants’ Rule 68 offer of judgment for $275,000 against Phillips in his individual capacity, and on July 14, Judge James C. Cacheris took up Phillips’ request to keep his disciplinary records sealed.
Quoting Davis’ assessment of the controversy over sealing the records, Cacheris said the internal affairs reports “detail the behavior of a public officer entrusted with the public’s confidence on matters relevant to his job performance.” Cacheris said in White v. Chapman that the magistrate judge’s ruling was “not contrary to law” and the deputy’s disciplinary records should be made public.
White also had filed motions in limine related to some of his federal personnel records, which now are part of the public record.