California Legislature Fails to Act on Issues Related to Police Transparency

Sep 6, 2016 | Government

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Whether in response to calls for public access to records of officer misconduct and use-of-force; funding for more police body cameras; or, measures to increase transparency of police body camera footage—even as California citizens continued to cry out for more police transparency—the California legislature once again failed to act on this important issue.

In May, two key measures aimed at increased police transparency were allowed to languish and die in appropriations. Senate Bill 1286 would have provided public access to records related to officer misconduct and use-of-force; while Assembly Bill 1680,  would have funded a grant to buy more body cameras for local police.

Just last week as the legislative session came to a close, the state’s elected representatives once again failed to act on transparency legislation related to body cameras.

This issue is an important matter of public trust because even as more and more police departments implement the use of such cameras as a way to temper public outcry for transparency; few police departments currently provide public access to the cameras’ footage. This is largely due to strict laws in the state that block the majority of law enforcement information from becoming public—a special exemption for police officers from the public oversight afforded by the mandates of the California Public Records Act.

This steel-blue-wall of secrecy does little to satisfy many who believe that if the police have nothing to hide and are acting within the boundaries of the law on behalf of the people, the information is not only part of the public record, it should be accessible for public viewing.  Many are left to wonder how the use of body cameras can help facilitate public trust when the footage from such cameras is not available to the public.

The legislature’s failure to act on issues of such importance to the citizenry has left many to question whether the state’s politicians are reluctant to tackle such hotly contested political concerns—on either side of the issue.

This is because the legislature also failed to act on a privacy versus transparency bill in relation to body cameras that would have allowed families of fallen police officers to block the release of body camera footage showing the officers’ deaths (another special exemption for police officers). Although this bill did pass the Senate it was pulled when its legislative sponsor recognized there were not enough votes for the measure to pass the Assembly.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text el_class=”small”]Feature photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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