LA Judge Orders Police Misconduct Records Unsealed

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California judge lifted a temporary seal on Los Angeles police misconduct records Tuesday, striking a blow to police unions that say unsealing the records violates officers’ constitutional rights to privacy.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League sued to bar retroactive enforcement of California Senate Bill 1421, a bill that requires the release of police personnel records on request.

Attorneys for California police unions have argued in courts across the state that the Legislature did not intend for the law to be retroactively applied to records generated before the law took effect Jan. 1.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted the union’s request for a temporary restraining order in January, blocking the county and the police department from releasing misconduct and use-of-force records.

But Beckloff lifted the temporary seal on Tuesday, writing in a 1-page notice that the current stay will only remain in effect until March 1 at 3 p.m.

Attorneys for the police unions did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The law, introduced as a bill by state Sen. Nancy Skinner and signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, opens up access to personnel records on police shootings, excessive uses of force that resulted in death or “great bodily injury” and confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying by officers while on duty.

Law enforcement agencies across the state, including the California Highway Patrol, are complying with the new law and handing over requested personnel records. But some police departments, including the Inglewood Police Department near Los Angeles, opted to destroy police records before the law took effect on Jan. 1.

Before the law was signed, members of the public and even prosecutors were barred from accessing police misconduct records through a policy that was called the strictest in the nation.

Beckloff did not rule on the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs’ request to bar the law from being applied retroactively to LA County police records.

Kelly Aviles, attorney for the media coalition intervening in the case, said, “We are pleased with Judge Beckloff’s ruling. It brings our state one step closer to long-awaited transparency and accountability of our law enforcement agencies.”

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