Another California Court Rules Against Law Enforcement Secrecy, Says Agencies Must Release Old Misconduct Files

from the court-to-cops:-POLICE!-OPEN-UP! dept

If an appeals court doesn’t step in within the next few days, California law enforcement agencies will have to start handing out police misconduct records to records requesters.

Since the new transparency law went into effect at the beginning of this year, California police unions have been rushing to stop it from having any meaningful effect. The unions are hoping courts will side with their take on the law — a take that allows law enforcement agencies to memory-hole misconduct and use of force files predating the law’s effective date.

The author of the law, Senator Nancy Skinner, made it clear the new law applies retroactively. The state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, chose to ignore the clarification sent directly to his office by the Senator, and claimed the issue of retroactivity was still open.

The issue isn’t as open as Becerra and a few dozen police unions think it is. One court has already said the law should apply retroactively, lifting its temporary injunction pending an appeal. Now another court has sided with the public and greater accountability, stating that the new law can reach old misconduct files.

A Los Angeles judge dealt a blow Tuesday to law enforcement unions trying to limit the scope of a landmark transparency law, ruling that records from shootings, use of force and some misconduct by police officers in California are public even if they occurred before the new law took effect this year.

The decision marks a provisional victory for open-government groups and media organizations that intervened in a case brought by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which sought to keep records of older incidents confidential.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff’s ruling involves records that fall under Senate Bill 1421 — internal investigations into shootings by officers, severe uses of force and confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying by officers.

The expiration date for secrecy — according to this decision — is March 1st. The order will take effect and force affected agencies to start respecting the law that went into effect three months earlier. No doubt this will be appealed, but there’s no indication this judge is willing to hand out a temporary injunction to the unions while they fight the inevitable. The only option left for agencies to do while the legal war wages on is stonewall requests and overvalue their redaction efforts.

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Comments on “Another California Court Rules Against Law Enforcement Secrecy, Says Agencies Must Release Old Misconduct Files”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Records? What records?'

The only option left for agencies to do while the legal war wages on is stonewall requests and overvalue their redaction efforts.

No, those aren’t the only options, at least one department found a much easier alternative: destruction. Can’t hand over any records if ‘routine maintenance’ resulted in them being destroyed before you could be forced to make them public after all.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While that idea sounds good in some ways, it leads toward the same problem that malpractice insurance has caused in the medical industry. Insurance companies and actuaries assessing risk end up determining policies. I do not think we want insurance companies de-facto policy makers for our law enforcement agencies.

TFG says:

Re: Re: Re:

I prefer dispensing with "Qualified Immunity." I prefer making it a point of record that law enforcement should not be allowed to be ignorant of the law.

I’d rather fight for that, as unattainable as it may seem, than allowing corporations to get any amount of power over what is supposed to be a public service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Lying to you to make you do what they want. making up B.S. laws that they can’t site as they don’t exist. Arresting you over B.S. goto charges which they don’t even know what they mean. Crap that will get thrown out, but all the while wasting your time and money as you’re handcuffed and brought to jail and processed.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Bad Apples

The unions going to bat so hard for these "bad apples" makes it seem like the bad apples are much more pervasive than they lead us to believe when an incident actually gets exposure. Shouldn’t unions and diligent officers welcome this public oversight as a means to finally rid themselves of the stigma that they care more about themselves than the communities they police?

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Bad Apples

As the case of the CIA demographics unit in New York reveals, and the CIA designed ALPR program in Los Angeles demonstrates- or the recent Houston homicide of the Navy vet where planting evidence and running a smear campaign straight out of the counter -intelligence manuals- the bad apples are in fact the entire police force of any precinct /jurisdiction thats in bed with CIA.

But we dont call it MHCHAOS 2.0, because theres always an internet full of Pentagon/AIPAC /ADL /SPLC/NGO unspecified and sponsored trolls who sqwawk “conspiracy theory" like trained parrot….. I mean, "Mockingbirds " on cue.

Then, they deplatform you.


Nothing to see, hear….or say. Move along folks.

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