A pair of new laws is intended to provide increased transparency into police activity. One law will make certain incidents, including police shootings and sexual assaults by police officers, public records. The other law will provide access to police audio and video recordings related to incidents of the use of deadly force by police officers.
According to proponents of the new laws, these changes will increase the public's confidence in law enforcement. Even the California Police Chiefs Association indicated support for SB 1421, in their “ongoing effort to be transparent and open about our investigative process.”
Senate Bill 1421
Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1421 into law, which goes into effect January 1, 2019. The law will require disclosure of police department records under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). This includes records related to the following:
- Incidents involving the discharge of a firearm at a person by a peace officer or custodial officer.
- Incidents in which the use of force by a peace officer or custodial officer against a person resulted in death, or in great bodily injury.
Also subject to records request are any incidents in which “a sustained finding was made” involving:
- A peace officer engaged in sexual assault involving a member of the public; or
- Dishonesty by a peace officer directly relating to their duties.
Under the new law, there are some restrictions on record disclosure, including removal of personal data, preserving the anonymity of complainants and witnesses, or other information in which disclosure would cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy that outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
Assembly Bill 748
Assembly Bill 748 will go into effect July 1, 2019. This bill relates to audio and video footage, including police body cameras, involving the discharge of a firearm at a person by a police officer, or incidents involving the use of deadly force resulting in death or great bodily injury. Under this law, CPRA requests will require law enforcement to produce audio and video recordings.
Prior to this law, police audio and video recordings were exempt from CPRA requests as records of investigations conducted by any state or local police agencies. Law enforcement agencies could refuse to produce records of these investigations where disclosure “would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation or would endanger the successful completion of the investigation.”
The new law would still allow the police to withhold the recordings under certain conditions, including delayed release if the disclosure would interfere with an active investigation, or allow for redaction to protect the expectation of privacy of a subject depicted in the recording.
Santa Rosa Criminal Defense Lawyers
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