California Legislator Looking To Close Law Enforcement's Open Records Loophole

from the forced-transparency-is-apparently-the-ONLY-kind-of-transparency dept

While other states seem distressingly focused on exempting law enforcement from greater transparency -- whether by crafting new loopholes in FOI laws or deciding body camera footage should remain in the control of police -- California is going the other way.

State Sen. Mark Leno, seeking to tighten accountability amid a national conversation over police shootings and a push for law enforcement reform in San Francisco, introduced a bill that would roll back a 1978 law and subsequent Supreme Court rulings that prompted cities to close police disciplinary cases to the media and the public.
This is Leno's second attempt to rewrite the law that created an accountability shelter for police officers. It must be said this is a much better idea than the San Francisco PD's response to a recent high-profile shooting: limiting officers to firing two bullets each during interactions with citizens. Despite more public support for greater law enforcement transparency, Leno still faces a tough battle to push this legislation through. As in any other push for police accountability, those pushing back are the usual, powerful suspects.
Harry Stern, an attorney who represents officers around the Bay Area, slammed the proposal, linking it to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ recent approval of a day of remembrance for Mario Woods, the stabbing suspect whose video-recorded killing by police sparked protests and a federal review of the city force.
Harry Stern works for the deputies' union and, like many other union reps, feels the real problem with today's policing is everyone else.
“No one is against accountability,” Stern said. “But when politicos press an agenda that includes declaring a day in honor of a violent felon, one must consider their motives with a jaundiced eye. ... In today's criminal-friendly, antipolice climate, we need fewer baseless public floggings of cops, not more.”
Actually, it seems pretty clear that some people are against accountability, with a large majority of them acting as police union reps. No one likes "baseless public floggings," but union leaders have made it abundantly clear they're not too fond of justified floggings either, whether performed in public or not.

Another law enforcement union is also looking to block the bill.
San Francisco Police Officers Association officials will be among those fighting the legislation. Nathan Ballard, an adviser for the union, said that while officers support efforts to bring transparency — including having officers wear body cameras — the union will oppose legislation seeking “to undo the California Supreme Court’s ruling that protects police officers’ privacy interests.”
For public figures who act under the color of law and wield an immense amount of power, police officers (or at least their union reps) seem awfully sensitive about their (mostly-imagined) privacy. The public should have access to police misconduct records, including the names of officers involved. The unions pretend this will lead to "public floggings" by those with ulterior motives, like politicians and the media. But the simple fact is that law enforcement remains a revolving door for bad cops, allowing them to move from one agency to the next with minimal effort. Access to police misconduct records will allow outside parties to keep tabs on job-surfing habitual offenders -- an essential aspect of accountability very few law enforcement agencies seem willing to perform themselves.


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  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 14 Mar 2016 @ 3:56pm

    "No one is against the appearance of accountability" ~ fixed

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 14 Mar 2016 @ 4:25pm

    Made in California

    Nathan Ballard, an adviser for the union, said that while officers support efforts to bring transparency — including having officers wear body cameras — the union will oppose legislation seeking “to undo the California Supreme Court’s ruling that protects police officers’ privacy interests.”
    Maybe they could ask local business Apple to encrypt those records to ensure that their "privacy interests" remain protected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    andika jos (profile), 14 Mar 2016 @ 11:01pm

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Mar 2016 @ 12:22am

    About that...

    In today's criminal-friendly, antipolice climate, we need fewer baseless public floggings of cops, not more.

    Absolutely, and you know what would really help that? If people were confident that police that abused their authority would be suitably punished by other police and the courts, instead of getting a minor slap on the wrist(if that) for actions that would see anyone else thrown in jail.

    If the public felt that the majority of cops were good ones, and the rotten minority would be appropriately dealt with by their superiors/co-workers then the public would be a lot more understanding towards the police, and willing to accept that the occasional corrupt cop will slip through, temporarily, before being fired.

    By instead doing everything they can to protect the worst among them however they all are seen as a problem, and that willingness to 'let the police handle their own' goes up in smoke because the public has learned the hard way that left to their own devices the police and courts won't do anything about the corrupt in their ranks. If accountability is to be had the public pretty much has to force the issue, and if this sometimes results in innocent cops being caught up, then maybe they should have thought of that before providing cover for their corrupt co-workers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 15 Mar 2016 @ 4:44am

      Re: About that...

      Exactly, there may be some anti-police sentiment (I'd argue it's more anti-corruption than anti-police) out there but there's essentially NO anti-police rules or regulations. We're just trying to get the anti-corruption laws actually enforced.

      And if you think that pro-citizen's rights rules are anti-police, you need to reconsider the purpose of law enforcement agencies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2016 @ 8:57am

      Re: About that...

      ...instead of getting a minor slap on the wrist(if that) for actions that would see anyone else thrown in jail...

      I would accept revocation of credential and minimum 5 years ineligibility for reinstatement. In my state a credential issued by the state police is required for any law enforcement job at any level except federal; federal has their own credential requirement. No credential = no job in law enforcement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kenichi tanaka (profile), 15 Mar 2016 @ 1:27am

    the real problem with today's policing is everyone else

    Seriously? State Sen. Mark Leno's response as to why police shouldn't be held accountable is to make them less accountable? LOLS

    This didn't succeed the last time and he thinks he can slide this bill through again? Expect court challenges to this bill if it ever gets signed into law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GrooveNeedle (profile), 15 Mar 2016 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      I'm not sure you read the article correctly.

      Sen. Mark Leno is trying to make them accountable, it is Harry Stern who is trying to shelter the police from public scrutiny.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2016 @ 6:37am

    If you do not blindly support the police you must be a terrorist.

    That about sums up how I see the people defending police act.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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