Los Angeles Times by Ben Poston and Maya Lau
February 20, 2019
A Los Angeles judge dealt a blow this week to law enforcement unions trying to limit the scope of a landmark transparency law, ruling that records from shootings, use of force and some misconduct by police officers in California are public even if they occurred before the new law took effect this year.
The decisions mark a provisional victory for open-government groups and media organizations that intervened in cases brought by the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which sought to keep records of older incidents confidential.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff’s final rulings released Wednesday involve records that fall under Senate Bill 1421 — internal investigations into shootings by officers, severe uses of force and confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying by officers.
The judge’s decisions don’t take effect until March 1, giving the police unions time to appeal and ask the appellate court to block the release of records pending its decision.
“We disagree with the judge’s interpretation of the law and expect that we will be filing an appeal of these decisions shortly,” said Jacob Kalinski, an attorney representing the Los Angeles Police Protective League and Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.
But open-government advocates hailed the judge’s decision, saying that keeping older records secret would shield misconduct by some officers who remain on the job.