Second California Appeals Court Refuses To Review Police Unions' Challenge Of State Public Records Law

from the best-part-of-bashing-your-head-against-the-wall-is-when-you-stop dept

California law enforcement's losing streak continues. Since the new state law went into effect at the beginning of the year, California police unions have been battling the new transparency, claiming the public records law does not apply to historical records of police misconduct or use of force.

So far, the unions are finding no one who agrees with them. The law's author says the law is retroactive. So have a couple of state courts. The only person siding with unions on the retroactivity issue is the state's top cop, Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The state's Supreme Court has turned down two requests by law enforcement unions to step in and clear up the retroactivity question. In both cases, it rejected the petition without comment. Now, a second state appellate court has refused to review a lower level decision finding the state's new law applies to old misconduct records.

Appellate judges found no reason to consider that Superior Court Judge Charles Treat's Feb. 8 decision that the state's new police transparency law, Senate Bill 1421, covered past years would be overturned on appeal and declined to hear the case. A stay on the release of records will end on March 19 unless the unions appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The unions will undoubtedly appeal. But it likely won't make any difference. The two rejections by the state Supreme Court include a petition by one of the state's sheriff's unions, which filed its petition right after the state court lifted the temporary injunction. This rejection, however, came with a comment from the appeals court -- one that indicates this will all end in tears (and released records).

"For the reasons stated by the trial court, appellants' argument is without merit," the court's order says.

The argument unions are pushing is a non-starter. At best, it's just delaying the inevitable. And the stance the state's unions are taking isn't even directly aligned with the departments whose employees they represent. Some law enforcement agencies are already turning over documents to records requesters without making them jump through litigation hoops or wait for a final call from the state's top court.

Sooner or later, the inevitable conclusion will arrive. And then agencies can get back to their usual stonewalling and foot-dragging. No matter what the courts decide on the retroactivity issue, it's still going to take some form of litigation to pry these records loose.

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


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2019 @ 3:04pm

    100 losses in court means nothing to the unions as long as they feel they can get one victory.

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

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Mar 2019 @ 3:30pm

    What's that phrase always told to the public?

    'If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide'?

    While I know the argument is bogus in general, in this case I can't help but think that the desperation to prevent release of records(especially given what those records are of) should be seen as a pretty strong indicator that they have lots to hide and know it.

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

  3. identicon
    bobob, 25 Mar 2019 @ 3:33pm

    Imagine that. The police are against public disclosure of how they interact with the public and at the same time wonder why the public has the same us vs. them mentality the police do. I wonder if it occured to anyone in the police unions that being transparent and open would create better relations with the public and make their job easier? Probably not. I didn't realize the police unions were for the benefit of the bad cops. Scratch that. yes, I did.

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

  4. identicon
    LED, 25 Mar 2019 @ 3:48pm

    Re: tactics

    yeah, if the courts don't support the cops on this -- the cop unions will switch tactics ... work slowdowns, strikes, and special "targeted-policing" (harassment) against their state government opponents & their families.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2019 @ 8:16pm

    Re:

    I wonder if it occured to anyone in the police unions that being transparent and open would create better relations with the public...

    This is not how authoritarians think; you are correct.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2019 @ 10:47pm

    It's getting to the point where I wish they would just put up a website with every single record of every single law enforcement officer that the public could search and be done with it.

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

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Mar 2019 @ 11:24pm

    Re:

    I wonder if it occured to anyone in the police unions that being transparent and open would create better relations with the public and make their job easier?

    That takes work and not acting like a thug on a power-trip(in other words wouldn't be nearly as easy and fun), they seem to have settled into the method of ensuring compliance via fear and shows of force.

    To be fair that strategy does work for a while... right until it doesn't and things get messy, though I'm unsure if they've bothered to think that far ahead.

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

  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2019 @ 1:07am

    out_of_the_blue's not going to like this, is he?

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2019 @ 1:54am

    Does Not Apply

    "...California police unions have been battling the new transparency, claiming the public records law does not apply to historical records of police misconduct or use of force."

    <sarcasm>Well, duh! No other laws apply to the police - why should this be any different?</sarcasm>

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

  10. identicon
    Sok Puppette, 26 Mar 2019 @ 6:06am

    Who actually believes that they haven't shredded or "lost" anything vaguely incriminating by now anyway? They've had a long time to "clean up" at this point...

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

  11. icon
    Thad (profile), 26 Mar 2019 @ 7:54am

    Re:

    Whenever Poochie's not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking, "Where's Poochie?"

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

  12. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2019 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Their desperate attempt to create the illusion that people actually care enough about them to be constantly asking 'Where's X?' is just so downright pathetic.

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


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