State Senator Who Made Police Disciplinary Records Public Pushes Transparency Expansion

January 21, 2021

Disciplinary records of police officers found to have used deadly force, inflicted serious injuries, sexually assaulted someone or lied on the job had been kept secret in California until 2019, when SB 1421 went into effect. State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley, wrote that legislation to open up law enforcement disciplinary records. In 2020, she moved to expand that legislation to grant access to records about officers who engaged in biased or discriminatory behavior or used excessive or unreasonable force.

Skinner’s first expansion bill was SB 776, which won bipartisan approval in the Assembly, but was not voted on by the Senate before the session’s constitutional deadline. At the end of last year, Skinner re-introduced the expansion, now known as SB16. 

When she first joined the Legislature in 2008, she said, she was stunned by how little access to police records California allowed.

“California was an outlier, and was one of the few states that basically did not give public access to any information about the conduct of its police officers,” Skinner said. “Now compare that if you are a city manager, or a city street sweeper, or a city librarian — any person in the public can get a record about anything you do. I mean, it’s basically almost unlimited.”


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