Sen. Mark Leno has recently introduced a bill giving Californians greater access to law enforcement records, not excluding those on misconduct of police officers. Files involving police shootings and sustained misconduct of officers would be available to the public under the proposed Increasing Law Enforcement Transparency Bill. This new bill aims to increase public confidence in law enforcement.
Leno said, “Failing to disclose such important information can fuel mistrust within our communities and threaten public safety.”
What will be made public are records from all investigations of cases wherein an officer has engaged in misconduct violating the legal rights of the public, including sexual assault, planting evidence, and unlawful arrest. The public will also have access to investigations of police uses of force that result in deaths or serious injury. The bill also requires releasing of records when an officer is found to have engaged in job-related dishonesty. Local governments will also be allowed to decide to hold public hearings when officers appeal disciplinary action. In addition, citizens who filed complaints against the police will also be able to follow whether their complaint was sustained and if corrective actions are imposed. However, in cases wherein there is a danger to any officer or individual involved in the misconduct, the bill allows the court to withhold law enforcement records.
This new bill seeks to assure the public that the persons responsible for keeping their community safe can in fact be trusted.
However, opposition from police unions is to be expected.
The bill has various pros and cons. It seems ironic too how it expects to increase public trust by airing the police’s possible dirty laundry. But given the numerous cases of police-related violence in the past years, maybe transparency is really needed. What do you think?