Transparency is a good thing, especially when it comes to law enforcement and legal proceedings. Even though California is a progressive state, when it comes to police records, secrecy has long been the mantra. In the wake of controversial shootings and alleged police brutality across the country in recent years, there is a public outcry for greater access to internal police investigations.
Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills which address the public’s concern, Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748, The Los Angeles Times reports. SB 1421 gives the public access to investigations formerly under lock and key, such as officer shootings and other significant uses of force. The signing of AB 748 means that police have 45 days to release body camera footage and other recordings of incidents involving an officer’s use of his sidearm and other severe applications of force.
“This is revolutionary,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “It would unveil what we have been wanting for a long time.”
The authors of both pieces of legislation are thrilled with Gov. Brown’s endorsement; however, police unions and labor officials are anything but happy about the new requirements.
SB 1421 also opens up interview transcripts, evidence and full investigatory reports to the public, prosecutors and defense attorneys, according to the article. Regarding AB 748, law enforcement officials are not required to release video footage if doing so would interfere with an investigation.
“With Governor Brown’s signature, California is finally joining other states in granting access to the investigatory records on officer conduct that the public truly has a right to know,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), author of SB 1421.
The new open records law goes live on Jan. 1, 2019, the body-camera law on July 1, 2019. The head of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Brian Marvel, is concerned that the new regulations may put law enforcement at risk. Marvel worries that citizens will seek retribution after accessing info on the use of force. “There would be a greater potential for officers and their families being harmed by having all of their information being put out publicly,” Marvel said.
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