Secrecy on California Law Enforcement Records Lifted with State Legislature’s Passage of Senator Nancy Skinner’s SB 1421

August 31, 2018

Sacramento, CA — Today, with bipartisan support, the California Legislature passed SB 1421, Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) “Protecting Communities and Law Enforcement” legislation. SB 1421 would open public access to a limited set of records related to investigations of law enforcement use of serious force, on the job sexual assault, or dishonesty. SB 1421 now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.

“Law enforcement relies on trust with the communities they serve to effectively do their job,” said Senator Skinner. “When incidents occur the public deserves to know that a thorough investigation has occurred and that police are held accountable.”

California is among a minority of states that completely prohibits access to law enforcement records. SB 1421 would modify existing confidentiality rules and restore the public’s ability to monitor law enforcement agencies regarding the conduct of their officers. Under existing law, the public, and even hiring agencies, do not have access to internal reports or investigations into officer use of force or serious misconduct. These restrictions erode public trust, and can allow officers with repeated incidents to bounce from agency-to-agency undetected.

Specifically, SB 1421 requires law enforcement agencies to provide public access to records related to:
1.    Discharge of a firearm, or use of force that results in death or great bodily injury,
2.    On the job sexual assault, including coercion or exchanging sex for lenience, or 
3.    Dishonesty in reporting, investigating or prosecuting a crime.

“California is an outlier when it comes to allowing public access to records related to serious police misconduct,” said Senator Skinner. "SB 1421 lifts this secrecy and provides the transparency so necessary to build trust and keep our communities safe.” 

Senator Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District. She serves as Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary.