SB 1421 will restore Californians’ right to know whether and how departments investigate and hold accountable officers who use force, plant evidence or sexually assault civilians.
Sacramento – Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1421, a bill introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), to make public information about officers who shoot, kill, or engage in serious misconduct like falsifying evidence or committing sexual assault while on the job.
Governor Brown’s signature marks another turning point away from the failed policies of excessive secrecy surrounding police abuse first enacted in the 1970s.
“We defeated the powerful law enforcement lobby groups,” said George Galvis, Executive Director, of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice. “This was a collective effort by families directly impacted and killed by police, grassroot organizations, and policy advocates. This win will help increase transparency and accountability of law enforcement and make our communities safer.”
For the past four decades, California has barred public access to police misconduct and use of force records, ranking as the most secretive state in the country. Under existing law, not even prosecutors are allowed direct access to records of officers found guilty of committing egregious misconduct under the cover of authority, even those with a history of planting evidence or lying in police reports. California police departments are also barred from sharing with the public the factual findings of their investigations following police shootings. More than half of states in the country make some or all police misconduct records available to the public.
“Our communities have the right to know when police misuse their power,” said Marc Philpart, Managing Director of PolicyLink. “With SB 1421, transparency will become the rule, rather than the exception, creating greater accountability and ultimately a more just California.”
“Finally, the families of those killed by police will have the answers that every family deserves,” said Laurie Valdez, partner of Antonio Lopez who was shot and killed by police in San Jose. I’m grateful the Governor signed SB 1421. This new law will help bring many families closure and help us begin to walk the long road toward healing and understanding.”
SB 1421 will make public three categories of information that are specific to the powers of police officers or their potential for abuse:
- Firing a gun or other uses of force that result in death or great bodily injury;
- Sexual assault tied to the abuse of power to coerce a victim; and
- Perjury or the fabrication of evidence tied to police officers’ unique powers in investigating and prosecuting crimes.
“In the wake of the death of a community member at the hands of law enforcement, the victim’s family often finds itself unable to attain meaningful answers about what happened and why,” said Cat Brooks, director of the Anti Police-Terror Project, “SB 1421 takes us one vital step closer to transparency, and affords families an additional avenue to information on the long march for justice.”
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SB 1421 is sponsored by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter California, California Faculty Association, California News Publishers Association, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PICO California, PolicyLink, and Youth Justice Coalition LA.