Historic progress but big hurdles for police misconduct bill

Legislation that would overturn 40 years of secrecy for police personnel records progressed through the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday on a 5-2 vote.

SB 1421 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would mandate the disclosure of police personnel records related to cases of a serious use of force, or where there is a sustained finding against an officer of sexual misconduct or an act of dishonesty like perjury.

This week, reporting in the Los Angeles Times and The Sacramento Bee highlighted the dearth of information that is released related to police shootings, and how it hurts impacted families.

CNPA has forwarded three other measures since 2006 to reform confidentiality of police records, but none has progressed as far as SB 1421. Still, the toughest votes the bill faces are in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and on the Assembly Floor. SB 1421 will need the support of moderate democrats in the face of significant pressure from law enforcement advocates who wield significant sway.

Throughout July, CNPA will be urging newspapers across the state to bring attention to SB 1421, and to write and editorialize about the stories journalists cannot tell because of the roadblocks the laws have created.

SB 1421 will next be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee chaired by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher in August when the Legislature returns from summer recess on August 6.