Police records disclosure bill set for key hearing next week

On Tuesday, the Assembly Public Safety Committee will hear SB 1421, a bill that ambitiously seeks to end 40 years of imposed confidentiality of police personnel records.

If the committee approves the CNPA sponsored bill, it will mark the furthest a bill has progressed in the Legislature to loosen the vise on the state’s stringent police confidentiality laws.

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is championing the measure, following three other attempts by CNPA in the last 12 years to roll back the strict prohibitions on disclosure contained in the Pitchess statutes. These laws were signed by then Gov. Jerry Brown in 1978, who is poised for a poetic opportunity to reverse the policy in his final year in office.

The bill’s biggest hurdle is clearing the Assembly floor, where members are more deferential to concerns of law enforcement. Tuesday’s hearing is the last policy hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee gets the bill, where it will likely be placed on the suspense file.

If released to the Assembly floor, the bill will need significant public support to prevail on the critical vote. CNPA urges every member to watch the bill’s progress, cover how it could impact the public’s right to know about local police departments, and editorialize in support. Look for sample letters and key talking points in support of the bill in future Legislative Bulletins.