Senate Bill 1421 requiring law enforcement agencies to release records related to police officer misconduct has embattled law enforcement agencies, the public, police unions, courts, attorneys, and politicians across California for the past several months. Particularly upsetting to many law enforcement agencies is that this law is intended to apply retroactively. This means that as of January 1, 2019 all past officer disciplinary records related to officer-involved shootings and other major uses of force, sexual misconduct, and dishonesty in carrying out police duties were to be made public.
Riverside police misconduct attorneys watched closely as the case against making past records public was presented to the California Supreme Court. Ultimately, the Supreme Court declined to consider the request to prevent agencies from turning over police disciplinary records from cases prior to January 1, 2019, until the issue has made its way through the lower courts first. After the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, a statewide public records battle erupted in lower courts across the state.
Riverside Police Officers Association challenged the law and filed suit to prevent the release of any of its officers’ records prior to January 1, 2019. The president of the Riverside Sheriff’s Association even argued that deputies will suffer harm if records are released retroactively because many of them did not appeal their disciplinary records based on the belief that they would remain confidential.
The Riverside case is still pending and an order was issued preventing the release of records until it comes before the judge in March, so for now, Riverside law enforcement records are not being released. Riverside police misconduct attorneys typically welcome more transparency in police misconduct issues because this transparency helps to bring the existence and frequency of police misconduct to light.
For those who are upset with Riverside and other municipal law enforcement agencies that have sought judicial intervention regarding the retroactive application of SB1421, they are probably even more upset with other agencies in California who have taken matters into their own hands to deal with the issue. It has been reported that several agencies in the state have shredded and destroyed disciplinary records that will now never become public records. Several department officials have maintained that destroying records was not to avoid public access, but instead to make more room in storage spaces and to streamline their filing and records maintenance procedures.
Police officers are entrusted with an immense amount of power, but they are not above the law. When they abuse that power and violate the rights of innocent citizens, they need to be held accountable.
If you believe you have been a victim of police brutality, unlawful search, and seizure, falsification of evidence, or any other type of police misconduct, contact a Riverside police misconduct attorney at JML Law to discuss your claim and resulting damages.