A woman filed a complaint against a sheriff’s deputy for various allegations of misconduct while off duty. The woman and the deputy are next door neighbors and have a fairly typical neighbor feud going between them. The woman filed the complaint with a sergeant who happened to be working as the watch commander that shift. The sergeant takes the woman’s information intending to forward it to the department’s internal affair division, which was the standard protocol for processing complaints at that time. That afternoon the sergeant came across the deputy in the locker at the station. The sergeant and the deputy engage in a conversation about the woman’s complaint. During the course of this conversation, the deputy made numerous statements to the sergeant. Some of the statements were either mistaken or flat out untrue.
Following an internal affairs investigation the department terminated the deputy because of the false statements made during the locker room conversation. The deputy’s G&A lawyers obtained a prehearing ruling from the arbitrator at the department that the sergeant had violated the deputy’s rights under POBR during the locker room conversation. The locker room conversation was deemed a “interrogation” under government code section 3300. As such, the deputy had a right to be advised that he was 1.) under an investigation that could lead to punitive action and 2.) that he was entitled to a representative. The Arbitrator ruled that the deputy’s statements to the sergeant during the locker room conversation should be suppressed. Without those statements, the department and the county had no basis to terminate the deputy.