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.