City Not Liable for Disclosure of Involuntary Statements by Former Police Officers

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently decided a case involving two consolidated appeals raising an issue of first impression.  The plaintiffs, both former police officers with a municipality in southwest Michigan, sued the city and their Director of Public Safety alleging that the defendants violated MCL 15.395.  Both plaintiffs had been the subject of an internal affairs investigation, and alleged that they were required to make “involuntary statements” as part of the internal investigation.  The plaintiffs claimed that subsequent statements made by the Director of Public Safety to the media were prohibited disclosures of involuntary statements in violation of MCL 15.395.

The statute at issue was adopted by the Michigan Legislature following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Garrity v New Jersey, which held that forced statements obtained from police officers during an internal investigation could not later be used in criminal proceedings brought against the officers.  The Michigan statute goes further and provides that an involuntary statement made by a law enforcement officer is confidential and not open to public inspection, except under four specifically enumerated exceptions.

In affirming the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims, the Court of Appeals found that not only were the defendants entitled to governmental immunity, but the statute in question does not expressly create a cause of action for damages, and Michigan law does not permit a court to infer a cause of action against a governmental defendant.

Edward Salah, an attorney in our Livonia office, concentrates his practice on municipal law, insurance defense and utility law. He can be reached at (734) 261-2400 or esalah@cmda-law.com.