12 Jun Police Transparency Regarding Body Cameras and Audio Recordings: AB 748, Effective July 1, 2019
AB No. 478
On July 1, 2019, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 748 will go into effect, allowing for the release of police body camera recordings, including audio recordings, to the public. This specifically addresses events where there was a police shooting, or some other excessive force used, that caused injury or death to a person involved in the incident. The evidence would be released to the public within 45 days after the event, as part of the Public Records Act (PRA) and requests for the information.
Withholding Evidence During an Investigation
However, should there be a reasonable outcome of endangerment to a person in an investigation, or interfere with the successful completion of an investigation, this evidence could be withheld until after the investigation is completed. The withholding date range could be 45 days to one year.
Public agencies, such as the police, may use redaction tools so that sensitive information remains hidden, where needed. Agencies would need to file for extensions and show just cause for why release to the public will interfere with ongoing investigations.
Senate Bill (SB) No. 1421
Senate Bill No. 1421 was also passed and signed by Governor Brown in September of 2018, in conjunction with AB 748, that allows personnel records of peace officers to be disclosed in relevant court proceedings as part of the discovery process. Only information related to a case of misconduct and other similar complaints can be revealed. The peace officer(s) will have personal information, such as family contact information and names removed to protect the privacy of other family members. Other sensitive information not included, are personal financial records, and any information not relevant to the discovery process and case.
This bill is already in effect as of January 1, 2019 and applies to custodial officers as well. The bill amends California Penal Code § 832.7, which formerly kept all peace officer and custodial officer records confidential, except under certain circumstances.
Disclosure of officers’ records can occur under three circumstances:
- An officer discharges a firearm and causes bodily harm,
- Where a complaint and sustained finding against an officer has been made, and
- Where a sustained finding against an officer relating to dishonesty in a report, investigation, or prosecution of a crime. It may also relate to another officer or multiple officers.
The state of California represents the people of the state and, therefore, those hired by the state, are hired by the people to do a job for us. As such, it is important that as employers, we know what our employees are doing. Evidence of wrong-doing must always be investigated to avoid putting the people in fear of those who we trust to protect us.
The people look to the police, for example, to help when there is trouble or danger, and when those who show up after a call is made, turn and do harm to the people, then there is a lack of public trust. That leads to a lack of respect for the rules that govern us as well.
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