Court Denies Effort to Thwart Release of Police Records Mandated by SB 1421


(From Press Release) – (Friday), in a ruling in Contra Costa Superior Court, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blocked an effort by six police unions that are seeking to prevent the enforcement of SB 1421 by keeping files private that were created before January 1, when the new law took hold. SB 1421 makes public previously secret information about officers who shoot, kill, or engage in serious misconduct like falsifying evidence or committing sexual assault while on the job.

The ACLU represented Richard Perez who is seeking records related to the killing of his 24 year-old son, Pedie Perez, by a Richmond Police Officer in 2014. “Mr. Perez deserves to know what happened to his son on that fateful night,” said Kathleen Guneratne, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “This law was passed to lift the veil of police secrecy.”

Unions representing police officers in Antioch, Richmond, Martinez, Walnut Creek, and Concord, and Contra Costa County may appeal the ruling, but today’s decision gives hope to those who have long fought for such disclosures, especially Black and brown communities that have long been subjected to police violence.

SB 1421 was sponsored by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter California, California Faculty Association, California News Publishers Association, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PICO California, PolicyLink, and Youth Justice Coalition LA.

The order can be found here:

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5 thoughts on “Court Denies Effort to Thwart Release of Police Records Mandated by SB 1421”

  1. PhilColeman

    Suppose we were to hyper-speed this legal effort and simply say all completed police investigations of alleged misconduct be made public. I’ve personally supported this view for the past many years based on a large experience base of the perception of misbehavior is far greater than the reality.
    Keeping a secret involving a possible misdeed causes a normal reaction. “If these guys are so proper and professional, why are they hiding what they do?” In the abstract, it’s a valid question.
    Every labor union, not just police, fear this happening. Legal protections are now in place protecting all employees from privacy invasions by employers and prospective employers and nosy members of the public. These safeguards we all enjoy in the workplace are to prevent job-related acts of illegal discrimination and rights to privacy even while working.
    Having prepared innumerable “IA investigations” and reviewed hundreds more, a full disclosure of these investigations would enhance the image of the law enforcement profession. Naked suspicions would be dispelled or never occur, the preparation of the investigations would be improved, knowing that anybody/everybody would be able to read and critique them.
    Problem: If it happens with the police as a landmark case, personnel records from other governmental entities become a target citing the legal precedent of law enforcement. Then elements of the private sector could be next, on the basis that these entities provide services and products to the public consumer. We have the right to know the performance levels of these workers, too.
    I deplore the “slippery slope” argument in debates of public policy but this one can’t be ignored.

  2. Edgar Wai

    I don’t understand the slippery slope argument. I think there is a clear difference between public and private sector. If the government is transparent, we could just make it a law that transparency is worth something so that any company that is certified transparent has an advantage in being selected as a contractor.

    If everything is transparent, people are free to judge who is right and who is wrong. If the employer says something unfair to the employee, the employee now knows and can defend themselves with counter argument. Neither record is more “official”. Whoever needs to make a decision can consider both. And either side should be held accountable for lying.

  3. PhilColeman

    “I think there is a clear difference between public and private sector.”
    Not quite that clear, just one example. Picture a common occurrence in the public sector today, the contracting out of public service responsibilities to a private vendor. An allegation of misconduct is charged against the vendor while performing the capacity of a public servant. Is that employee fish or fowl, which disparate set of rules and legal protections apply? Who would be charged with the investigation and publishing the results?

  4. Edgar Wai

    Ultimately, the government can never be wrong because it is “the people”. Its decisions should be mechanical, there is no room of any discretion. If the government is transparent, so would be its investigation procedure and all the evidence that it would collect during its investigation. So the short answer is that it doesn’t matter “who” is doing the investigation. The people is doing the investigation.

    When an allegation of misconduct occurs, the vendor faces two potential charges:
    1) The misconduct itself
    2) Any continual misconduct of not automatically and immediately turn itself in, provide evidence, offer compensations and provide an action plan to reduce the same misconduct.

    When the vendor does (2), then the people decides whether the vendor has done enough to rights its own wrong. Only if the vendor has not done enough would the people decide that an investigation is warranted.

    This is how normal person would behave, right? If you found that you stepped on someone you automatically apologize, you don’t wait for the other to request an apology. The laws attempted to verbalize ethics, but sometimes it make people settle at the level of the law and forget what ethics is. Then the law becomes the force that erodes ethics.

  5. Alan Miller

    the government can never be wrong because it is “the people”. Its decisions should be mechanical, there is no room of any discretion.

    EW, first time I’ve seen you step into political comedy.

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