California Lifts Secrecy on Law Enforcement Records with Governor’s Signature on Senator Nancy Skinner’s SB 1421

September 30, 2018

Sacramento, CA — Today Governor Brown signed SB 1421, Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) legislation that will, for the first time in 40 years, lift the block California has had in place denying public access to any and all police records. SB 1421 opens access to a limited set of investigatory records related to law enforcement use of serious force, on-the-job sexual assault, and dishonesty.

“When incidents such as a police shooting occurs, the public has a right to know that there was a thorough investigation,” said Senator Skinner. “Without access to such records, communities can’t hold our public safety agencies accountable.”

California was alone among states in completely prohibiting public access to law enforcement records. SB 1421 has now overturned these secretive rules, restoring the public’s ability to monitor law enforcement agencies regarding the conduct of their officers.

Before SB 1421, the public, and even hiring agencies, did not have access to internal reports or investigations into officer use of force or serious misconduct. With SB 1421, California can rebuild public trust in law enforcement and end the practice of officers who may have had repeated incidents bouncing from agency to agency undetected.

Under SB 1421, law enforcement agencies are required 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.

“SB 1421 lifts decades of secrecy and provides the transparency so necessary to build trust and keep our communities safe,” said Senator Skinner. “With Governor Brown’s signature, California is finally joining other states in granting access to the investigatory records on officer conduct that the public truly has a right to know.”

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.