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Los Angeles judge says police records should be public

February 20, 2019

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Tuesday ruled that police records of officer shootings and misconduct are public even if the events occurred before a new state transparency law took effect.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff ruled in a case brought by the Los Angeles police union but his decision won’t take effect until March 1 to give the union time to appeal, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League is one of several unions around the state that have gone to court to block public release of personnel records that predate Jan. 1, when Senate bill 1421 took effect.

The law was passed in response to national distress over a series of deadly police shootings of unarmed minority men. It was designed to guarantee public access to records involving investigations into officer shootings, use-of-force incidents that caused great bodily injury or death, and those involving officers found to have committed misconduct such as sexual assault or falsifying evidence.

Dozens of police agencies have released records.

But in a dozen court cases, opponents have argued that the measure isn’t retroactive and previous records are covered by California’s longstanding privacy protections for law enforcement personnel.

Last week, a judge in Ventura County granted a request by a deputy sheriff’s union to temporarily block release of records of past events. Earlier this month, a judge in Contra Costa County denied nearly identical requests from local unions.

The issue may eventually wind up before the California Supreme Court.