New Law Expands Public Access to Police Misconduct Records
SB 16 Signed Into Law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on September 30
California’s governor signed a package of public safety measures today, including SB 16, which clarifies and expands on the law requiring the disclosure of police records. The new law provides agencies with more specific guidance on how and when to disclose police personnel records.
The procedural changes to the law—like timing for disclosure and mandating certain retention periods—go into effect in 2022. More substantive changes—including expanding the scope of disclosures required by adding four new categories of records for release—will not be implemented until 2023. This delayed enactment gives local agencies a year to prepare for the disclosure of the backlog of police records that will surely be requested in light of this new law. A flurry of litigation may also ensue and disputes over the law’s application will garner substantial public interest.
As discussed in detail here, SB 16 will require disclosure when there is:
- a sustained finding involving a complaint that alleges unreasonable or excessive force;
- a sustained finding that an officer failed to intervene against another officer using force that is clearly unreasonable or excessive;
- a sustained finding made by any law enforcement agency or oversight agency that a peace officer or custodial officer engaged in conduct including, but not limited to, verbal statements, writings, online posts, recordings and gestures involving prejudice or discrimination against a person on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status; or
- a sustained finding made by any law enforcement agency or oversight agency that the peace officer made an unlawful arrest or conducted an unlawful search.
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