Legislature has little appetite for law enforcement reform

CNPA, along with the ACLU and others, hoped to make a second go at reforming California’s clamped confidentiality laws with respect to police officer personnel records. Unfortunately, the Legislature was not ultimately committed to tackling this tough issue, and that effort has fizzled.

In the meantime, however, a number of police reform bills purporting to bring transparency have been introduced, many with law enforcement support. First, there’s what is currently just a spot bill by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), AB 1428. Language being circulated indicates this effort will attempt to codify a mediation program being implemented in Los Angeles, which provides people who complain about an incident with an officer to confront the officer and have a discussion about that incident. The proposal, billed as a reform effort would, of course, keep all information collected and created in the process completely confidential.

The smattering of purported transparency measures also includes SB 345 by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to require police agencies to post in text-searchable format any manuals and policies that are not already deemed confidential by law.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) is the author of AB 1024, which would permit a law enforcement officer to seek an in-camera hearing to prevent disclosure of some or all of a record of an officer-involved shooting.

Another measure more pointedly aimed at reinforcing the blue wall of secrecy is SB 655 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton). This measure would bring all state coroners and deputy coroners within the purview of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act. Currently, there is potentially greater access to coroners’ personnel records than other law enforcement officers’, due to their exclusion from the Act. This bill would end that access.

There are three proposals that mention access to body cameras. First, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has introduced AB 748, which would require all police agencies to adopt a body camera policy by July 1, 2018, and set forth public access guidelines in accordance with the California Public Records Act. CNPA and the ACLU support the legislation.

In a more substantive change to the CPRA, AB 459 by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Arcadia) would prohibit the release of body camera footage that depicts a victim of rape, incest, domestic violence or child abuse.

Other measures of interest

  • SB 347 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) is a version of her bill from last session to regulate the use of drones. The bill, as currently drafted, does not contain last year’s exemptions for news gathering activity.
  • SB 1542 by Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Encinco) is a bill that would make it a crime for any person to record a violent felony, which poses First Amendment concerns.
  • AB 165 by Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) would roll back protections provided by the California Electronic Privacy Act. Specifically, the bill would exempt public schools from the requirement that they obtain a warrant to search the cellphone of any person on campus.
  • Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has introduced SB 313, which would require explicit authorization from a customer to automatically renew or continue services initially offered through a free gift or trial.