Articles Tagged with police transparency

This week a San Francisco free-speech group, the First Amendment Coalition, sued the California Attorney General and Justice Department over their refusal to disclose police misconduct records under the state’s new transparency laws. Last year the Senate passed a bill providing the public with greater access to police personnel files as well as greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force encounters. Details surrounding both laws are described below.

Greater Access to Police Personnel Files

The California Penal Code was amended with Senate Bill §1421 to permit more access to police and prison personnel records. In the past, police and prison personnel records were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons even for litigation and public-records requests.

While police and prison personnel records are still confidential, they may be released in situations in which one or more of the following conditions apply.

  • When a gun is fired by police or prison personnel that results in death or great bodily injury;
  • A sustained finding that police or prison personnel sexually assaulted someone; or
  • A sustained finding that police or prison personnel were dishonest in a criminal case or in the investigation of another police or prison officer.

A sustained finding is a decision by investigational authorities in cases of police or prison personnel misconduct that finds fault in the conduct of the police or prison officer.

Greater Access to Video and Audio From Police Shootings

Assembly Bill §748 also amended the California Government Code and provides the public with greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force incidents that result in death or great bodily injury.

The right to receive access to video and audio is not absolute. A police department or prison may deny disclosure or release of the video and audio recordings if the incident is under investigation and if would violate someone’s privacy rights. Assembly Bill §748 goes into effect on July 1, 2019.

Charged With a Misdemeanor or Felony Crime in California?

Most people in the criminal justice system are first-time offenders. For many accused people it may be the first and only criminal case they have in their lifetime. Understanding your rights and the steps involved to resolve a criminal case brings peace of mind during a turbulent and scary time for you and your loved ones.

Contact an experienced and knowledgeable San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties and explain your legal rights and responsibilities. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of the criminal case and for any crime charged. Continue reading

In the latest fatal civilian shooting to make national headlines, Charlotte, North Carolina police have shot a man named Keith Scott. Scott, like many victims of police shootings, was a black man whom his family claims was unarmed and not a threat. While protesters have filled the streets in the last few weeks, a new North Carolina law took effect on October 1 that will make it much harder for the public to see the footage of what happened to Keith Scott.  

The law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature runs counter to a nationwide trend in which some cities are actually trying to push transparency to earn back the public’s trust.  It would make any video footage by body cam and dashboard cam not a matter of public record. This would mean that only a judge can release it, and the footage would be exempt from public information act requests.

Calls for the release of the video have become the crux of the protests that ensued after the news of Scott’s death broke. The Charlotte police department refused to release the video to the public.  As of September 24, Keith Scott’s family released the first and only publicly available video which was recorded by cell phone by Scott’s wife.

All Police Body Camera Bills Have Failed in California This Year

For the second straight year, California’s legislature has failed to pass any major legislation regulating police body cams. Multiple bills, both to boost transparency and restrict access, have failed to garner support from lawmakers.

Police departments may adopt their own voluntary policies on police cams. The LAPD became the largest agency in the country to adopt body cameras with an announcement earlier this year, after four years of study and a pilot funded by donations. All 7,000 LAPD officers will wear body cams by the end of 2016, at the cost of $1.5 million.

Police Cam Footage Exempt

Standards for the release and storage of footage vary across departments across the country. As criminal evidence, police body cam footage is also currently exempt from California’s state law concerning public records. Currently, three Northern California counties have adopted guidelines for how long the video footage should be kept, but individual departments are not obligated to follow them. Attorneys who represent law enforcement recommend that departments keep their footage for two years.

In San Diego Specifically, public release of footage is prohibited unless approved by a Police chief or designee. Continue reading