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FAC, Media Coalition Oppose Last-Ditch Effort to Gut Landmark Police Transparency Law

A coalition of media groups led by the First Amendment Coalition (FAC) today filed briefing in the California Supreme Court to oppose a police union’s effort to undermine the effectiveness of a new, landmark police transparency law.

The law requires a wide range of records relating to police misconduct to be available to the public—a sweeping change in California law. Prior to the bill’s enactment in September, California was one of a handful of states to bar public access to records surrounding investigations into police shootings and accusations of police misconduct.

The law brings California into the mainstream by allowing the public to see records relating to police shootings, instances of sexual misconduct, or acts of dishonesty, such as perjury by police officers. It takes effect on January 1, 2019.

However, a San Bernardino County police union is making a last-ditch effort to weaken implementation of the law. On December 18, it filed papers in the California Supreme Courtasking the high court to rule that the new law applies only to records created after January 1. If the court so ruled, records of past police misconduct would generally remain inaccessible to public scrutiny.

“It’s clear this is not what the Legislature intended with this sweeping and landmark legislation,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “Obviously, the Legislature wanted to open up police misconduct files, irrespective of when they were created. The police union’s rushed and last-minute effort should be promptly denied by the Supreme Court. The public deserves to see these records and has a legal right to do so as of January 1.”

Joining FAC in the effort are the Los Angeles Times, KQED, and the California News Publishers Association.

See the briefing filed by FAC here. See here for the petition filed by the police union.

FAC and the media coalition are represented in this matter by James Chadwick and Tenaya Rodewald of the Sheppard Mullin law firm.