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New Laws Will Force Transparency On California Law Enforcement Agencies Starting Next Year

from the here-comes-some-of-that-responsibility-that's-supposed-to-accompany-power dept

Starting next year, California law enforcement agencies will finally be subject to a bit more scrutiny and accountability. For years, law enforcement officers have been able to hide misdeeds behind super-restrictive public records laws — laws so restrictive even law enforcement’s best friends (i.e., prosecutors) couldn’t see them.

For the general public, this meant near total opacity. For criminal defendants, this meant rarely having the chance to impeach an officer’s testimony by offering evidence of past misconduct or routine untruthfulness.

Over the past few years, efforts have been made to roll back the restrictions built into California’s public records laws. All of these efforts died on the way to the governor’s desk, most riddled with rhetorical bullets fired by California police unions who claimed making this information public would endanger the lives of bad cops.

The status quo — in place for the last forty years — is being disrupted. Two bills have been signed by Governor Jerry Brown, creating holes in law enforcement’s law-enabled opacity.

Under the law, records involving “personnel, medical, or similar files of disclosure which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” were exempt from the public. Police records often fell into this category, with officer personnel records – such as use of force violations – subject to additional protection under the law.

Now with two new laws, SB-1421 and AB-748, the public has the opportunity to review records that were once exempt from oversight. Under SB-1421, law enforcement agencies are required to provide public access to records related to use of force, sexual assault complaints, and dishonesty in investigations and reporting of a crime. AB 748, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D – San Francisco), supports Skinner’s bill by requiring the release of body camera footage within 45-days of a critical incident with a 30-day delay if a case is still pending.

The state’s police unions are still complaining about the new laws, calling the governor’s decision “reckless” and “disappointing.” But the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) goes even further, claiming the law requiring the release of body cam footage will encourage bad behavior by the usual suspects: people protected by the First Amendment.

Brian Marvel, President of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), representing more than 70,000 public safety members, said AB 748 creates significant problems by doing the following:

It jeopardizes the privacy of witnesses, which in today’s society is exceedingly difficult to have them come forward, given the bullying tactics of certain activists groups.

[…]

It invites the media to interfere with investigations and prosecutions by contacting witnesses, second guessing determinations, and driving a false narrative regarding an incident, all to sell newspapers and get clicks on their websites.

These arguments are pathetic. Anyone arguing their critics are serving up criticism “for the clicks” has already lost the battle. The best way to combat a “false” narrative is openness and transparency. If law enforcement agencies really wanted to set the record straight following a shooting, they’d proactively dump footage and documents. Instead, these agencies spent years hiding behind the state’s public records laws, only making long-delayed appearances to claim people criticizing an officer’s actions were wrong and were being misled by public enemy #1, the Fourth Estate.

It’s likely good law enforcement officers support this transparency. After all, nothing to hide is nothing to fear, as we’ve been told when rights are about to be violated. Trust is built through transparency and accountability. Law enforcement agencies have never been fans of either, which has directly resulted in the destroyed community relationships they show so little interest in fixing.

Legislation can start rebuilding the trust law enforcement agencies aren’t willing to repair. It’s perfectly understandable why they’d be opposed to these bills: they do have something to hide and lots to fear. But they’re public agencies, funded by taxpayers and supposedly answerable to those they serve. They haven’t been. Not by a long shot. But these new laws — which go into effect at the beginning of next year — will force agencies to begin addressing their more problematic employees. In the long run, it will work out better for everyone.

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Comments on “New Laws Will Force Transparency On California Law Enforcement Agencies Starting Next Year”

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21 Comments
Joan Galt says:

Hey. Does this apply to Techdirt / Manick calling people "trolls

Anyone arguing their critics are serving up criticism "for the clicks" has already lost the battle.

"Clicks" are clearly wanting attention (money isn’t mentioned), so by simple substitution it’s:

[Techdirt] arguing their critics are serving up criticism "for the [attention]" has already lost the battle.

But I’m sure that Techdirt’s immunity to its own statements takes over.

Joan Galt says:

Re: Hey. Does this apply to Techdirt / Manick calling people "trolls

As for the proposition, it’s a reasonable worry. There’s so little new content being created, and so many grifting off the few originals / news / police reports / whatever, that the competition for "clicks" is fierce, and since money / fame is directly involved, then it’s certain that much of this source of "free" content will be exploited however can and regardless of merits.

It’s a problem of focused interests versus the general public good of NOT attacking the police at every turn.

In practice, sleazy little web-sites with no message of their own will desperately try to make world-shaking muck out of reasonable objections to more loony "liberal" policies. — And instead of addressing the dangers of multi-billion dollar corporations literally on verge of controlling the world, like, say, GOOGLE.

For WHO to blame, look at this in a mirror: tridhceT.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Funny how you failed to address the point of the article, which is that the police are trying desperately to make sure no one can hold them responsibile for the use (and possible abuse) of their power. Seems like, for all your declarations in favor of “common law” and such, you would be on the side of those who think the police need oversight to prevent abuses of power and an ever-encroaching police state.

Joan Galt. says:

Re: Re: Re: Hey. Does this apply to Techdirt / Manick calling people "tr

claiming the law requiring the release of body cam footage will encourage bad behavior by the usual suspects: people protected by the First Amendment.

It’s not "funny" at all, you just AS EVER picked out the part that you want to focus on, and so did I. The above blockquote is in the piece. READ ALL NEXT TIME BEFORE TROLLING.

Joan Galt says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hey. Does this apply to Techdirt / Manick calling people "tr

Seems like, for all your declarations in favor of “common law” and such, you would be on the side of those who think the police need oversight to prevent abuses of power and an ever-encroaching police state.

I am.

But that doesn’t mean I go along with YOUR version of loony liberalism as the fix.

YOU, for instance, have proudly stated that you’re a "pirate" of copyrighted content, or in other words, directly oppose the common law that’s stated in the US Constitution as to Rights of Creators. And I’m sure you’re for gun control. So, you’re obviously against two bedrock points of common law from the Constitution.

Now, I had already expanded on your line below, you could read that — in your usual way, until find a sentence to quote and trivially contradict, instead of a whole connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition (from Monty Python Argument Clinic sketch).

Oh, and also, the police state is here, so is the surveillance state, the war state building an Empire, and Globalism too. It’s YOU who aren’t worrying about the whole picture, while claiming that I don’t.

Now, I’m done on this, so ad hom and "report" all you want. My statements stand adequately without the useless back-and-forth ad hom that you kids substitute for arguemnt.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

you’re obviously against two bedrock points of common law from the Constitution

Yes, I do stand against modern copyright law. The digital era of media has made copyright a joke; if we are to fix that issue, all of copyright needs an overhaul.

And yes, I favor the idea gun control. Why should buying a tool made only for the destruction of living beings and property be as easy as it is within the U.S.? (I am also for ammunition control, which seems far smarter if we are not going to do a goddamn thing about all the guns in this country.)

I had already expanded on your line below, you could read that — in your usual way, until find a sentence to quote and trivially contradict, instead of a whole connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition

Two things.

  1. If I am guilty of cherrypicking quotes from prior comments, you are just as guilty of cherrypicking quotes from the article. Besides, I need not address all your inane ramblings and lazy snipes against Techdirt to address the undercooked veal that passes for the meat of your argument.
  2. You mentioned the press and the possible side effects of increased reporting on the police, yes. But you failed to bring up the fact that such reporting, even if you disagree with it, is still protected by the First Amendment. For someone with a raging boner for a centuries-old piece of paper, you sure do love to ignore it when it suits your needs.

the police state is here, so is the surveillance state, the war state building an Empire, and Globalism too. It’s YOU who aren’t worrying about the whole picture, while claiming that I don’t.

I can worry about all those other things without having to bring them up every time I open my mouth. I’m not a conspiracy theorist (or an anti-Semite, Mr. “I’m worried about ‘globalists’ ”). You worry so much about the forest falling apart around you that you miss the individual trees falling down and hurting other people.

I’m done on this

Oh, please let this be true.

ad hom

You literally have no idea what this means, do you.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Hey. Does this apply to Techdirt / Manick calling people "tr

And I’m sure you’re for gun control. So, you’re obviously against two bedrock points of common law from the Constitution.

Gun rights are not enshrined into the constitution. The 2nd amendment only applies to militias, which individual citizens are not.

Don’t believe me? Here’s former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on the subject saying that the NRA and their reading of the 2nd amendment (which is widely accepted today due to their PR campaign) is a fraud:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eya_k4P-iEo

I do believe a chief justice knows what he’s talking about. Especially since this was before the modern era of ultra partisanship.

Joan Galt says:

Re: Re: Hey. Does this apply to Techdirt / Manick calling people "trolls

PS: it’s been proven / being proved in many countries that when loony liberals gain control, they increasingly attack stability wherever can, and thereby guarantee conservative backlash. Liberals want reaction so can go further.

That definitely applies to police. Regardless how evil you think they are, CONSTANT PUSHING usually results in worse.

Techdirt clearly regards police as enemy, and itself as champion of the oppressed, but it’s actually just evidence of doper paranoia. Techdirt never addresses any of the real causes or calls for actual "socialism"; liberals in general now only push for more dope, using the opporessed as mere "poster children", and solutions are always more economic freedoms for The Rich and their corporations. That’s changed over course of my lifetime. Democrats used to be for working people, not privileged masnicks. — I’M more old-school Democrat than are you kids, dammit! — I digress. Are larger problems in society that you aren’t addressing, though.

Since Techdirt so frequently makes me choose between oppressive policing that rarely affects me, and the constantly increasing harassment and endangerment as by drug addicts, thefts by "pirates", and irritation by "activists" who aren’t content with merely being left alone like everyone else is but pester ME for statements of support and demand that I cater to their weird ways, THEN I increasingly side with police.

Just sayin’. If you don’t understand that effect, then it’s typical of your blindness.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Regardless how evil you think they are, CONSTANT PUSHING usually results in worse.

If you think holding police responsible for the power they wield—which includes punishing them for abuses of that power—makes them “worse”, imagine what they would do if nobody could hold the police responsible for anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dumping footage

If law enforcement agencies really wanted to set the record straight following a shooting, they’d proactively dump footage and documents.

They have been doing that. It’s dumped right into the shredder, and then if someone files a FOIA request there was some "device malfunction", "mistake", or simply "no responsive data". It’s amazing how often an entire group of cops has camera malfunctions at the same time, a time corresponding to a notable event; bad guys must be using EMPs or something.

Gary (profile) says:

Cherry picking?

It isn’t cherry picking to pull the most blatant misstatement from a post and call it out.
It isn’t ad hom to call someone out for making unsupported claims. It is to call the TD posters “Looney” and “doper” and whatever else you just said that got flagged, Blue.

Here is a real simple question – What is your website with all your amazing articles and discussions? Do people come there and discuss current events and is it a nice place to visit?

That One Guy (profile) says:

What's the problem?

Under SB-1421, law enforcement agencies are required to provide public access to records related to use of force, sexual assault complaints, and dishonesty in investigations and reporting of a crime.

As I’m sure the police union(any of them) would happily tell you such things simply do not happen. Sure their might be the very, very rare exception, but the overwhelming majority would never use force in an inappropriate manner, never engage in sexual assault, and never lie during an investigation, reporting on a crime or during a court case.

As such I see no grounds that they could object from. If anything they should be happy that they are no longer prohibited from releasing documents exonerating the heroes in blue, and can now enter into the legal record via the courts how upstanding and honest their officers are.

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