By The Vanguard Staff
SACRAMENTO, CA – Sacramento lawmakers are strongly criticizing the City of Sacramento Police Dept. and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept. after a Sacramento Bee investigation found both agencies “failed to release records” for 50 or so incidents each where the agencies were involved in shootings of, or severely injuring, residents over the past four to five years.
David Loy, attorney with the First Amendment Coalition, told The Bee the agencies are breaking state law, noting, “If it relates to shooting at a person or a use of force causing great bodily injury, my view of the statute is those records have to all be disclosed whether there was any disciplinary action, or there are any appeals pending. They’ve got 180 days to hold on to it but after that they’ve got to release it.”
And, Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy told The Bee last week, “In order for our communities to have faith in law enforcement, agencies need to act as transparently and openly as possible. At the very least, we should expect law enforcement agencies, like all government agencies, to follow the law — which should serve as a floor, not a ceiling.”
And Councilwoman Lisa Kaplan said, “If there are ways to increase transparency between the police and public with appropriate release of documents, I am always willing to look at our current process and see what is or is not working to increase transparency and compliance with the law.”
Kaplan added, “This is something the council directed when we passed the action to increase the number of personnel in the police department and hope that any changes to increase transparency will be brought forth to implement.”
The Bee wrote that state legislators approved in 2019 Senate Bill 1421, “which required law enforcement agencies to release documents regarding officer-involved shootings and other uses of force that caused so-called ‘great bodily injury.’”
But The Bee said it found both Sacramento law enforcement agencies have withheld internal affairs records for dozens of cases, “leaving the public in the dark on whether the officers and deputies were ever disciplined or fired for their actions.”
Although the law allows agencies to delay documents being released for up to six months, both Sacramento agencies abused that exception.
“Sacramento’s City Council in September voted to add four employees to the police department, and two in the City Attorney’s Office, partly to help the city comply with the 2019 law. The scope of the law was expanded last year with the passage of SB 16, but the sections on records regarding shootings and uses of force remain the same,” wrote The Bee.
“Responding to the public must be a top priority, which is why my colleagues and I on the Sacramento City Council recently approved (the positions), to address the new and more demanding requirements in state law,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement. “The public needs and deserves to have this information.”
Kennedy told The Bee he plans to ask questions of Deputy County Executive Eric Jones, and then the Community Review Commission, noting, “I’ll be asking the right questions. I want to take a look and see what our current practices are. If we are deficient in any way and we’re not following law, we need to have a serious conversation about rectifying that. Transparency should be the cornerstone of what every government agency does, particularly law enforcement. We need our community to trust and have faith in law enforcement.”
The Bee said when it filed “California Public Records Act requests with the Sheriff’s Office for all disciplinary records regarding the incidents that occurred in 2021 and 2022 that fell under SB 1421, the office denied the request.”
The Bee said SPD also withheld internal affairs records regarding police uses of force and shootings, explaining there are about 50 incidents since 2019 when officers severely hurt residents or shot them and SPD has not released internal affairs reports.