Governor signs bad bill on law enforcement privacy

Governor Brown has signed SB 1421 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley).  Brian Marvel, President of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), representing more than 70,000 public safety members, said “We are disappointed at what we perceive to be a reckless decision by the governor.”

Marvel went on to say “PORAC has worked to ensure transparency with the public, without endangering the lives of witnesses, victims, officers and their families.  PORAC sponsored, along with other rank and file organizations, AB 1428 by progressive Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), that would have mandated the publishing of the general information of all investigations relating to Officer Involved Shootings (OIS) and serious uses of force by an officer.”  That measure was held by the Senate last year.

SB 1421 mandates the release of these investigations but adds “dishonesty” and “sexual misconduct” to the actions calling for the release of the records.  Furthermore, the information mandates to be released in SB 1421 are so broad and overbreadth that it is unclear as to whether the data to be released would include all historic information in an officer’s personnel file, a public release that is not allowed anywhere else or for any other employee.

Below are additional concerns with SB 1421:

· This bill creates confusion and uncertainty in the administrative disciplinary process.  Each department has its own process for investigating officers’ actions and/or complaints.  Some processes are fair and thorough while-in other departments an officer may have little opportunity for reasonable due process.

· The information that will be released because of this bill is already available to defendants in an action against the department through the “Pitchess” System that has been in law for 50 years, and through discovery.

·  In a case with mixed allegations where a department chooses to “load up” the discipline while using numerous allegations of misconduct, some of the proposed misconduct would fall under this bill for disclosure and some would not.  There is no way to parse out what should and should not be released.

·  Should information about law enforcement discipline be publicized, a wave of habeas corpus petitions from convicted criminals would follow.

PORAC has brought thoughtful solutions to the issues facing law enforcement.  We will continue doing so until change is made.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) was incorporated in 1953 as a professional federation of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.  Today, PORAC represents over 70,000 public safety members and 930 associations, making it the largest law enforcement organization in California and the largest statewide association in the nation.

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