California Supreme Court Rejects Second Attempt By Cops To Jump The Judicial Queue Over Police Misconduct Records

from the back-of-the-line,-buddy dept

California cops hoping to hide their past misdeeds from the public are going to have to get by without the help of the state's highest court. A new law went into effect January 1st, opening up police misconduct records to the public for the first time in the state's history.

With few exceptions, law enforcement's response has been to pretend the law's reach doesn't extend retroactively. This runs contrary to the intent of the law as clarified directly to the courts and the state attorney general's office by the law's author, Senator Nancy Skinner.

Several lawsuits have been filed -- some by records requesters and some by law enforcement agencies. Both are seeking a declaration from the courts that their side is the right side. So far, two state courts have sided with requesters, stating that the law is retroactive.

Just after the law took effect, the Sheriff's Employees' Benefit Association petitioned the state supreme court directly, asking for a ruling on the law's reach. This request was denied by the court without comment, suggesting the state's top court was happy to let the lower courts handle this determination.

For a second time, the state supreme court has rejected a premature examination of the law. Scott Shackford at Reason has more details:

After a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled against unions for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, one union asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in. On Wednesday, the high court declined, leaving in place the lower court's decision.

The court rejected this request without comment, wordlessly reiterating its stance on the issue: let the court system do its work and stop trying to jump the turnstile. The next step for disappointed fans of opacity are the states' appeals courts, not the one at the top of the judicial food chain.

From what we've seen so far, it seems unlikely the uniformed anti-transparency activists will prevail. The two courts to return rulings have stated the law affects pre-2019 police misconduct records. The state attorney general's deliberate obtuseness hasn't budged the judicial needle. Eventually -- but hopefully sooner than later -- public records requesters will have a clear answer and complete access to records detailing the impropriety and abuse their tax dollars have paid for.

Filed Under: california, police misconduct, police records, transparency


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Mar 2019 @ 1:39pm

    'What records?'

    Eventually -- but hopefully sooner than later -- public records requesters will have a clear answer and complete access to records detailing the impropriety and abuse their tax dollars have paid for.

    Well, the ones that haven't been destroyed by the time it reaches that point anyway...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2019 @ 4:19pm

    It will also give the public evidence in court

    These are state and local government employees who have often been caught lying under oath and they get away with it time and time again. Now with accountability and the ability to request records, the public defenders offices will be about to create databases of officers with known truth-telling problems so any case involving them will be rightly kicked to the curb. We give them the benefit of the doubt even after they have been caught in lie after lie with no negative consequences. Police are subject to exactly the same laws as the rest of us if we enforce it. Otherwise, they enjoy the rights we used to have.

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

  • identicon
    Whoever, 8 Mar 2019 @ 4:25pm

    If you ...

    If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

    This applies to cops also, right?

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 Mar 2019 @ 6:47pm

    Flea bath

    Let's hope this begins a removal process. There are many great and caring police officers and the rest need to be removed like fleas.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 8 Mar 2019 @ 9:09pm

    Nothing civil about it

    I could care less about this civil lawsuit nonsense. What I want to know is where are the prosecutions for falsifying court documents? Where are the disbarments?

    But, of course, neither of those things will ever happen because the party offending is the same as the party prosecuting and the party disbarring. And so, oh well, boys will be boys and more of the same next week or next month.

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

  • icon
    Bluehills (profile), 8 Mar 2019 @ 10:46pm

    Corrections

    The lawsuits are generally being pursued by associations representing officers, not law enforcement agencies. Also one state trial court has ordered that documents generated before January 1, 2019 not be disclosed pending resolution of the litigation.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2019 @ 12:57am

      Re: Corrections

      Out of curiosity, did that order not to disclose also include a prohibition against destruction? Because at least one town's police department already pulled that stunt, and I would not put it past others to try it as well.

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

      • identicon
        Bruce C., 9 Mar 2019 @ 4:32am

        Re: Re: Corrections

        My thought exactly. They don't have to prevail in court, just create uncertainty long enough to purge the records. If they want to be thorough, they'll go through a review/revision of their record-retention policies to justify the purge. Then they go through another round of lawsuits about the purging, but the only real remedy available is a cash settlement or fine -- the records will still be gone.

        OTOH, it would be hard to justify purging disciplinary reports on current active employees, not to mention the possibility of recovering records from archived computer backups -- so we'll see how that plays out.

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

        • identicon
          Annonymouse, 11 Mar 2019 @ 7:10am

          Re: Re: Re: Corrections

          Well there is always the 5 eyes or whatever it's called now.
          Just send a request to one of our freinds in espionage to send the backip copies.

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

      • icon
        Bluehills (profile), 9 Mar 2019 @ 9:05am

        Re: Re: Corrections

        The order did not include a preservation component. Existing law requires maintenance for a minimum of three to five years.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2019 @ 9:59am

          Re: Re: Re: Corrections

          So beyond useless and in fact entirely one-sided, on the side of the police. Awesome.

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

          • icon
            Bluehills (profile), 9 Mar 2019 @ 10:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Corrections

            Certainly it came as a surprise to me, as I think the legal issue is pretty simple and this one ruling erroneous. A significant number of agencies are already complying with 1421, but this new order is empowering organizations that object.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2019 @ 6:41am

    The numerous attempts and amount of effort expended to keep these records out of the public's hands lead me to speculate in my head what kinds of awful things must be in them. Is it possible that what they are trying to hide is as bad or worse than we begin to imagine in the context of how hard they are trying to keep the information hidden away.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2019 @ 4:27pm

    Can you imagine what would happen if this law applies retroactively?

    Let's say some cops are involved in a shooting. Per their SOP, they release all types of info about the victim's criminal history, whether or not it is relevant to the incident at hand.

    Now they're going to have the same type of information released about them. It's going to be a real bitch controlling the narrative when it comes out the Johnny Officer has several incidents on his record.

    Law enforcement brought this on themselves. For far too long they've been acting like they're above the law instead of enforcing it.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Mar 2019 @ 4:57pm

      "Acting"

      For far too long they've been acting like they're above the law instead of enforcing it.

      They are above the law. The rest of us have a 100.00% indictment rate and a 90% conviction rate. Police-involved incidents in which there are actual consequences are less than 100 in US history.

      The police are very much like the Freikorps in the post WWI Weimar Republic. The German commoners new to give them whatever they wanted (including their own bodies or their daughters) so that they wouldn't take it by force.

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


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