State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) plans to introduce a bill that would require the public disclosure of investigations of serious uses of force within police departments, including police shootings.
Some of the most rigid laws that block the public from police personnel records are in California.
California’s rules are so tough that last year a state appellate court ruled the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department can’t tell prosecutors the names of deputies with confirmed cases of misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reports. The case is under review by the California Supreme Court.
Lizzie Buchen, a legislative advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of California, told the Times that the new legislation is necessary because people have a right to know how law enforcement treats those cases.
“Currently, the public is completely shut out of the entire disciplinary process,” Buchen said in the article. “When an officer kills someone, which is an extreme example of their ability to use force, the public has no way of actually knowing how it was handled by that agency.”
The Los Angles Police Department (LAPD) doled out almost $81 million in the last fiscal year to settle lawsuits, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The legislation has taken on new urgency since the March 18 killing of 22-year-old Stephon Clark by Sacramento police, Buchen said in the LA Times. Clark was shot by police in his grandmother’s backyard during a vandalism investigation while he was unarmed and carrying a cellphone.
Under current law, the Sacramento Police Department investigation won’t become public except through any potential criminal prosecution of the officers or civil litigation against the city. Besides opening access to use of force investigations, Skinner’s proposed bill would also require the disclosure of confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying while on duty.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
Representatives with the California State Sheriff’s Association, California Police Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California—the state’s largest police labor organization—declined to comment on the legislation in the LA Times report.
Skinner said she wouldn’t comment on the bill until she introduces it, the LA Times reports.