SACRAMENTO – In an effort to increase transparency, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced steps that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking to accelerate the release of third-party peace officer use-of-force and misconduct records — covered under Senate Bill 1421 — in DOJ's possession. Today’s announcement comes as part of a court-approved agreement with the First Amendment Coalition and KQED to complete, by September 26, 2021, DOJ's review, redaction, and production of requested, written records. As part of that process, DOJ will continue to work with the First Amendment Coalition, KQED, and the San Francisco Superior Court to ensure that responsive, non-exempt records are released in a timely fashion, while keeping important safeguards — including those that are meant to protect witnesses — in place.
“For decades, peace officer misconduct records have been shrouded in secrecy,” said Attorney General Bonta. “With Senate Bill 1421, that era of California’s history has come and gone. When we fight for transparency and accountability, we’re fighting to strengthen our institutions. And, by shining a light on misconduct where it occurs, we’re also working to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Ultimately, that trust is a fundamental part of providing public safety in the 21st century. Today’s announcement is not an end; rather, it is key step forward on the path toward justice. At the California Department of Justice, we know it’s on us to set the standard and we’re ready to take on this important challenge.”
Senate Bill 1421 is a landmark piece of legislation that created a framework for the disclosure of certain law enforcement records under California law. Specifically, the law works to increase transparency relating to serious uses of force, officer-involved shootings, and specific types of peace officer misconduct, including sustained findings of filing false reports or the destruction of evidence, or sexual assault involving a member of the public. The law works to empower Californians by giving them the information they need to help hold law enforcement agencies accountable.
The records covered under today’s announcement relate to written documentation, in DOJ's possession, requested by the First Amendment Coalition and KQED of incidents involving other state and local law enforcement personnel that occurred from 2014 through 2018. Under the agreement, DOJ will review hundreds of thousands of records for responsiveness and will aim to complete its production of responsive, written records sought by the First Amendment Coalition and KQED by September 26. The agreement also provides for further proceedings, if necessary, to obtain further guidance from the court and to resolve any outstanding questions relating to the scope of the production. In addition, as part of the ongoing efforts to increase transparency, DOJ will take steps to identify mechanisms to streamline the tracking and disclosure of records subject to Senate Bill 1421 in DOJ's possession and to help provide clear standards for complying with the statute's transparency requirements for law enforcement partners across the state. To date, DOJ has released records pertaining to its own law enforcement personnel and more than 16,000 pages of responsive, non-exempt third-party records.
A copy of the stipulated agreement approved by the court today is available here.