NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Release of police misconduct records temporarily put on hold

Police Associations challenge Senate Bill 1421
Posted at 6:18 PM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 21:18:29-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A California law designed to increase transparency of police misconduct is being challenged in court.

A San Diego judge ordered a stay Tuesday, saying that while the case is pending departments cannot give out any misconduct records that were created before January 2019.

The decision comes after eight local police associations asked a judge to stop the law from being retroactive, saying their departments shouldn’t release previous records.

The lawsuit was filed less than a month after Senate Bill 1421 took effect. The groundbreaking law requires departments to release to the public records of officer-involved shootings and major uses of force, officer dishonesty, and confirmed cases of sexual assault.

According to the lawsuit, Senate Bill 1421 doesn’t contain any express provision or language requiring retroactivity or any clear indication that the legislature intended the statue to operate retroactively. It argues the bill eliminates the longstanding statutory confidentiality of specified peace officer or custodial officer personnel records.

“Forty-five years these documents have been deemed to be confidential and private,” said Richard Pinckard, attorney for the Police Officer Associations. “Decisions were made in that forty-five year period, now we’re changing that not just prospectively, but we’re changing it retroactively; that’s a problem."

A lawyer representing 10News, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Voice of San Diego, KNSD, and KPBS plans to intervene in the case.

An attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union San Diego and Imperial Counties also plans to intervene. Bardis Vakili says the ACLU worked with the state legislature to pass the law and believe if the records exist, the public has a right to know.

“Shining sunlight on serious misconduct in any government entity is important in the public's ability to hold that governmental entity accountable,” Vakili said.

The attorney for the associations says he doesn't believe the law is about transparency, he thinks it's about publicly shaming law enforcement.

It’s not just San Diego County. Police Officer Associations across the state are filing similar legal challenges.

Attorneys for 10news and other local media organizations will make their case later this month.