In 2017, police officers shot and killed 172 people in California. The police didn’t have to make public any records that could help distinguish between self-defense and murder. Recently Gov. Jerry Brown signed two laws that give the public increased access to police records.
“Californians have a right to know when officers are dishonest, use deadly force,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner ( D-Berkeley) to the Courthouse News Service.
Skinner introduced the first law under Senate Bill 1421 requiring internal investigation records of police officers, who may have committed misconduct in deadly force cases, falsified evidence or sexually assaulted someone while on duty, to be made available for public inspection.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) in the Courthouse article. Cunningham added that he supported the bill because it contained a clause that halts the release of misconduct records while an investigation is pending.
The second law requires law enforcement agencies to share audio or video footage of police in use-of-force incidents within 45 days unless doing so would interfere with an ongoing investigation. The California News Publishers Association proposed the bill.
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced Assembly Bill 748, which passed by a 41-23 vote before becoming law.
“This is a good government measure that provides greater insight into [use-of-force incidents],” Ting said prior to the passage of the bill in the Courthouse article. “The bill doesn’t force [law enforcement] to release videos during investigations.”
Now the public and press will have greater access to police body-camera and dash-cam footage in deadly force cases.