CA Governor Jerry Brown will soon be in possession of two law enforcement transparency bills that faced huge odds getting to his desk, AB 748 and SB 1421
The first, Assembly Bill 748, mandates the disclosure of police body camera videos as public records when death or great bodily injury occurred or a firearm was discharged at a person. The disclosure should occur at 45 days after the incident. Disclosure may be delayed for up to a year if it would substantially interfere with an investigation in progress, which must be documented every 30 days. After a year, or on the close of an investigation, whichever comes first, the video must be disclosed absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
The bill was introduced by San Francisco assemblyperson Phil Ting in February of 2017 and was long-delayed in the Legislature, which had kiboshed six different legislative proposals related to police body cameras since 2015.
The second, Assembly Bill 1421, lifts the confidentiality veil on police misconduct and releases investigatory and disciplinary records in use of force incidents resulting in death or great bodily injury, and sustained charges of sexual assault, perjury or the planting, concealing or falsification of evidence. Records will be disclosable after 60 days, with delays of up to 18 months for investigatory purposes. After that, clear and convincing evidence will be required to withhold disclosure.
Assembly Bill 1421 follows three previous attempts to lift the almost total confidentiality standard for police misconduct documentation, (California has been one of the most secretive states in the nation), dating back to 2007. None of the previous attempts survived the Legislature.
Together, while they fall short of the radical transparency many would like to see and do provide avenues for lengthy delays of a year or more, the two measures provide a significant increase law enforcement transparency and public access to vital information about the police officers we employ.
Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30 to sign both law enforcement transparency bills.