New California police transparency bill awaits governor’s approval

September 3, 2021

Police transparency initiative SB 16 passed with little opposition in the state Assembly Wednesday, opening the door for more public visibility into cases of police misconduct across the state of California. 

The new bill, if signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the coming weeks, will make “sustained” findings of police misconduct — such as use of unreasonable or excessive force, unlawful arrests or searches, and bias or discrimination — subject to the California Public Records Act. 

Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) spearheaded the bill as an expansion of her earlier SB 1421, a groundbreaking 2018 law that made police officer personnel records available as public records. In the decades prior, while these records could be requested by the media and the public for other public officials, police officers’ records had been kept confidential.

SB 16 also includes measures to make it difficult for police officers to obscure any history of misconduct, which Skinner explained before the San Francisco Police Commission last night, after announcing the bill’s passage in the Assembly. 

“California’s secrecy was so great that even a police chief, a hiring agency, could not necessarily access all the records about an officer that they wanted to hire,” Skinner said. “What we saw is that officers were quitting agencies before a record could be established, so they could move on without, quote unquote, any blemish to” their record. 

 

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