Appellate Court Rejects Appeal Over Police Transparency

(CN) – A California appellate court declined to take up an appeal from a Contra Costa County police union on Tuesday who were told by a state judge last month that police misconduct records created before 2019 can be released to the public.

Multiple police unions have been fighting the release of police misconduct records under the state’s transparency law that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Charles Treat found the law could be applied retroactively and a stay on police records being released would end on March 19.

On Feb. 19, a temporary seal was lifted on police records in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff denied the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs’ injunction request, who asked the California Supreme Court to review the lower court’s ruling, but that was denied on March 6.

Attorneys for police unions have argued in courts across California that the Legislature did not intend for the law to apply to records produced before the law took effect.

The law, introduced as Senate Bill 1421 by state Sen. Nancy Skinner and signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, requires the release of records on police shootings, excessive uses of force and confirmed cases of lying and sexual assault by on-duty officers.

On Tuesday, the First Appellate Court wrote, “The new law also does not change the legal consequences for peace officer conduct described in pre-2019 records. Rather, the new law changes only the public’s right to access peace officer records.”

The denial to take up the police union’s petition adds that the union’s argument is without merit.

“Although the records may have been created prior to 2019, the event necessary to ‘trigger application’ of the new law – a request for records maintained by an agency – necessarily occurs after the law’s effective date,” the appellate court wrote.

Multiple police unions representing Contra Costa sheriff’s department, Walnut Creek, Antioch, Concord, Martinez and Richmond appealed Treat’s decision. An email to the law firm representing the unions was not immediately returned by press time Tuesday evening.

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