Police records bill clears suspenseful hurdle and hits senate floor

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 1421 today, an early victory in the challenging effort to provide access to records of police shootings and misconduct.

SB 1421, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would require the disclosure of police personnel records about uses of serious or deadly force, and sustained findings of sexual misconduct or dishonestly that impacts the legal system.

The bill will be amended as it leaves the Appropriations Committee to include language requested by the California District Attorneys Association to ensure that an agency can delay the release of information if release would prejudice an ongoing investigation or proceeding. The language ensures, however, that when the interest in delay is resolved, the records must be released. The amendments will go into print this weekend.

California news publishers have long fought for access to police records, and see this measure as overdue. The Sacramento Bee wrote in support of the bill this week: “Californians deserve to know who’s patrolling their streets, and be able to weed out the bad actors.”

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “It’s Sacramento’s turn to acknowledge reality and end an unduly restrictive rule that bars access to police misconduct records.”

SB 1421 must be voted off the Senate floor on Wednesday or Thursday to meet legislative deadlines.