New Bill Aims To Pierce The Darkness Surrounding California Police Officers' Disciplinary Records

from the long-awaited-correction-to-the-[permanent]-record dept

Cops in California have literally unbelievable protections. To ensure the "privacy" of government employees sworn to serve the public, the Cali legislature has kowtowed to state police unions to make disciplinary records all but impossible to obtain… by anyone.

This has led to the expected results. Professional liars in cop uniforms offer unimpeached testimony filled with more lies as defense lawyers stand helplessly by, screwed out of offering effective counsel by state law. The law is so restrictive prosecutors are often unable to obtain these files. In the unlikely event a cop is being prosecuted, past misdeeds are hidden under a heavy layer of legislated opacity, hindering effectiveness on the other side.

Sure, if you're the victim of police violence, your past is an open book. The cops will dump everything they have on you, from the shoplifting citation two decades ago to every charge ever brought (but ultimately dropped or dismissed) against you in your lifetime to smear your reputation and burnish their own. But if the court would be better served knowing the witness on the stand is an inveterate liar with a history of misconduct, justice will not only go blind but underserved under state law.

This bill aims to change that.

There is currently a bill before the California Legislature that would ease the burden for the prosecutors and the public to know whether the officers in their communities are trustworthy. SB1421 would require police departments to release information about, inter alia, sustained findings of dishonesty in the course of criminal cases and other instances of police misconduct. This bill would also require police departments to release information about serious uses of force, including officer-involved shootings, to increase transparency.

As the article notes, cops -- especially the good ones -- should welcome this move towards transparency.

[C]urrent California law protects the worst officers by hiding their identities from the public and makes them indistinguishable from the bulk of the officers who do their jobs faithfully in accordance with the Constitution.

But they won't. Or, at the very least, their support will be overridden by all the other cops: the mediocre, the bad, the repugnant, and the morally and criminally corrupt. These are officers and former officers currently holding prominent positions in the state's unions, and police unions are universally opposed to transparency, accountability, or minor policy changes that might make policing better.

This bill could change things but it faces the same opposition that managed to talk the legislature into turning police officers into an extremely protected class. It's a welcome effort, but has little chance of survival. Maybe the tide has turned. Maybe this time police unions will be told to stop standing in the way of rebuilding California communities' trust in the officers and agencies policing their neighborhoods.

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Filed Under: california, disciplinary records, police, transparency


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  1. icon
    Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 18 Aug 2018 @ 12:18pm

    Re: "the bulk of the officers who do their jobs faithfully"

    No they don't. You have any proof of this? No? Then get lost.

    LAPD is one of the, if not the most, corrupt pile of dirt bags in the US.

    If you have evidence against this relatively well known fact, then please present it. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

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