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Police Department May Read Text Messages Sent on Agency-Issued Pagers: City of Ontario, California, et al. v. Jeff Quon et al.

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 77 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2010 Pages: 12-13
Ken Wallentine
Date Published
August 2010
2 pages
This article discusses a case before the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with public employees' electronic privacy rights in communications through agency resources.
In City of Ontario, California, et al. v. Jeff Quon et al., the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision stating that the Ontario, CA, police department did not violate the privacy rights of Sgt. Jeff Quon when department officials read text messages sent on his department-issued two-way pager. This article examines the basis for the suit and previous cases dealing with public employees' rights to privacy in the workplace. The Court's opinion in this case is discussed which "essentially imposed a reasonableness standard for government workplace searches, holding that a public employer enjoys broad authority to search the physical workplace as long as the employer had a 'work-related purpose' for the search, and the search is not unduly intrusive." The impact of the Court's decision in Quon is also examined. The decision is a reminder to public employees that privacy rights in the public safety workplace can be limited, that agencies should give advance warning of any monitoring, and that an explicit policy known to all parties can provide legal protection for officers and departments. 8 notes