California Highway Patrol seize medical records of woman beaten by cop

According to the linked article they got a search warrant. I am not sure why they would have a search warrant in this instance rather than a subpoena. I strongly suspect that the phrase “seize” is a misunderstanding/misrepresentation of the action by techdirt or whoever originally wrote the article. Probably based on legal terms that were designed to apply to physical objects and not information. I am sure that they received a copy or printout. This is an invasion of privacy and doesn’t really seem justified, as medical records would seem to be at best glancingly related to whether the officers actions were justified. However, it isn’t like they are attempty to prevent her from being treated by taking the records away from her doctor.

It’s hard to say if it’s simply that we are able to hear about it more or if the rate has actually increased. Remember, it’s a lot easier for the police/municipal government to lean on a local radio station, newspaper, or TV channel not to run a story than it is to get off of the internet.

Before ubiquitous smartphones and internet video, witnesses to a scene like this would have to have gone to the media for it to gain any large awareness. If they went to the media, the newspaper, radio, or TV station might not have believed them without hard evidence, simply because the whole situation seems so ludicrous. Remember, the odds are they wouldn’t have had video evidence like they did here even a decade ago. And of course, not everyone would think to go to the press for a variety of reasons.

For those reasons, it’s hard to tell if things are getting worse or better. I wonder if we might just be realizing how bad things were all along. Personally, I think that the war on drugs and the post 9/11 environment at most exacerbated a problem that was already extant among police (remember that Dirty Harry-type cop portrayals have been a thing for ages and the relationship between reality and media goes both ways). How prevalent it is or has been is really hard to determine.


That’s a good point. I did a quick google search for “police brutality,” but I couldn’t find anything out about trends.

My own data-free feeling is that things aren’t as bad as they used to be and that they seem worse because of the same thing: video recordings everywhere. I think things had to be worse 30, 40, 50 years ago (and before), when it was always a cop’s word against a suspect’s, along with even more racism and homophobia.

From a site like Police Misconduct, I take two things. First, holy shit there are a lot of fucked up police officers! Second, a lot of them are getting arrested. I don’t know how much police culture has evolved or even can evolve, so long as loyalty trumps the truth. But the fact that more cops are busting cops makes me very cautiously optimistic.


It may be - or not as much as you think. I don’t have specific data on the question, but I do have relevant data about why your perception may be skewed. Part of what may be happening is that we may just be seeing it more, and reading about it from more places. (It looks like this is what Aeiluindae said - I was called away for a bit and just returned! This post includes dates.)

With camera phones, the internet, and the advent of social media sites, the spread of information is very different now than it was just ten years ago. Here’s some info to put this into a time frame.

• The first U.S. camera phone, Sanyo SCP-5300 on Sprint, became available in 2002. It had only still picture capability, and specced at 0.3-megapixels. By 2003, other competitors were entering the market, and cameras got bigger and better quickly. By 2007, it wasn’t uncommon for a phone to have video capability.

• In 2003, Myspace was founded. It peaked in 2006, and then declined through 2008. In 2004, Facebook was created, and they took over the space Myspace had held - and continued to grow. Twitter appeared in 2006!

So I do agree it’s very likely there’s an apparent uptick in police aggression (after over a decade of war, we have a lot of post military entering the police force, and that doesn’t always work well), but there’s also a clear reason we would see/notice more police aggression. (The problem may have been that bad all along.)


It should be clarified about the ‘seizing’ of her medical records. Most hospitals in the US now have records stored electronically, be it scans of hardcopy or the entire record is digital text. More than likely, the CHP just got a COPY of her records, probably so they could do an internal investigation and/or mount a legal defense. I doubt they have the only copy, since no judge in their right mind would issue a warrant to seize the only copy of a file that would clearly be a conflict of interest. If the CHP did anything as stupid as ‘lose’ the file, any defense lawyer could easily get their client a nice settlement.

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it’s usually called Doctor-Patient confidentiality, but yes, there is, the cops are almost certainly violating privacy laws doing this. Hopefully they’ll get smacked down for it.

It was a search warrant, not a subpoena. They also took the clothing she’d been wearing at the time. This is from the article I posted above:

Earlier this week, CHP investigators seized Pinnock’s medical records and the clothing she was wearing during the incident. She claims in the lawsuit that the CHP’s actions were an effort to shift blame to Pinnock by “misusing the criminal justice system to obtain privileged and private information to discredit (Pinnock) … or circumvent the discovery rules in civil rights violation matters.”

They have criminally prosecuted police in the past for this type of conduct. It was the acquittal of the officers in Rodney King’s case that led to the L.A. Riots.

Four officers were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. Three were acquitted of all charges. The jury acquitted the fourth of assault with a deadly weapon, but failed to reach a verdict on the use of excessive force. The jury deadlocked at 8-4 in favor of acquittal at the state level.

I’m hoping more people will note that both the clothes and records were taken. I’ll feel a lot more comfortable if Marlene Pinnock’s lawyer comes back quickly to say, “Found out they wanted them for “x” purpose, and have provided a full copy to me.”


They took her medical records and clothing - most likely they want to compare injury marks on clothing and photos to the records. If they are planning to prosecute the officer, the records are fair game.

I wonder if they even had a court issued document… It might have been an administrative subpoena or investigative demand or other written request from a law enforcement official.
HIPAA exception:

To respond to an administrative request, such as an administrative subpoena or investigative demand or other written request from a law enforcement official. Because an administrative request may be made without judicial involvement, the Rule requires all administrative requests to include or be accompanied by a written statement that the information requested is relevant and material, specific and limited in scope, and de-identified information cannot be used (45 CFR 164.512(f)(1)(ii)(C)).

That might be the reason for the “investigation of a felony” wording.


I call Shenanigans!

Her medical history may become relevant in the civil suit. It will definitely be relevant to the issue of damages (that is, how much was she injured?) and could be relevant if the police department claims that the officer was acting reasonably, especially if she has a history of mental illness. I’m certainly not defending the officers’ actions or claiming to make a normative judgment about them, but getting the medical records of someone who’s a party to the suit, where that person’s medical history is relevant to a claim or defense, is a far cry from living in a police state. (Also, the records were “seized” pursuant to some type of court order, so it isn’t like they burst into the hospital and stole them.)

So is it normal for the same police force that is alleged to have committed a violation to be the one doing the investigation? Around here i seem to recall it is always a difference police force.

Except that it sounds like a suit has not been filed yet. If the records were subpoenaed by laywers as a part of obtaining evidence for a filed court case, then it’d make sense. The po-po “seizing” all the relevant evidence before that stage reeks of either 1) preparing to “lose” relevant (and potentially incriminating) evidence or 2) trying to find something to help them weasel out of responsibility for one of their own roid raging on an old lady.


I’ll see your hijinks and shenanigans and raise you a declaration of mischief!

What is needed: an “independent oversight board”, pretty basic. Everyone knows a legitimate establishment, private or government should have an outside agency do period inspections, eg., from financial wrong doings, ie fraud, record tampering, is easily violated when the same employees are allowed to inspect their own work–that’s how cover-ups occur; Even when business (private or public-govt) are legitimate, there always needs to be an outside “independent” agency routinely inspect its books, records and SOPs to ensure checks and balances are in place. Its natural for even the most highly regarded businesses or government agencies to do “bad things” when the opportunity is there, or worse dangerous—being killed by cops eg, Kelly Thomas case, Aiyana Jones, etc… The infamous prison guard case that took several years to catch up on in LA as well as the chicago prison overseer Jon Burge that was torturing prisoners for 30 years until they convicted him, sentence to ONLY to 4 years for perjury, when it should been a lot longer for the heinous torture. Other prisons Arizona where they left a woman out In the sun without water and died. An Asian kid was locked in a California jail for 3 days without food or water–clearly the guards should face criminal charges-it was obvious that it was deliberate. As for “outside independent agencies” in the accounting industry it was mandated by Securities Exchange Commission back in the late 90s that new rules were placed on Accounting firms with extensive oversight controls because of the Enron scandal. That was only one major event for accounting companies had to follow, and the enforcement agency “SEC” quickly addressed that and fixed it by having numerous oversight boards watching every accounting firm with a close scrutiny to protect public from further financial disasters like with Enron. Why can’t they do the same with this rampant abuse by cops consistently killing citizens and torturing them on a daily basis?? What is more important losing your investments over some negligence by a financial advisor or losing your life from a burly rogue out of control cop


There’s no contradiction there. He’s a Police Medic, not a Civilian People Medic.


He was just looking for blood donors.

Except if they went to the psych ward and seized the records from there, they weren’t after the records of her injuries from the beating. They’re looking for something to justify the officer beating the crap out of her.

At best, they might claim she didn’t understand something because she was in an altered state, and that things escalated from there.

If the article said the cops went to ER or a regular hospital ward for the records I’d say okay, that’s a fair part of the investigation. But not the psych ward.

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“CHiPs” was never like this. Sgt Getraer wouldn’t have tolerated this nonsense.

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this beating is unacceptable. The police are delegated with a lot of power, and they need to be careful with that power, because they are last line of support in a free society, so if that fails there’s no other protection for citizens. Instead those agents who are the most funded and legitimized, become the most dangerous in any society when the law doesn’t apply to them