A Contra Costa County Superior Court judge on Friday blocked a move by officers with five county police departments and the sheriff's office to resist the potential release of pre-2019 records of officer shootings and potential misconduct.
Friday's hearing in a Martinez courtroom was the first legal defense of SB 1421, a new law that took effect Jan. 1 that makes public through the California Public Records Act previously secret information about incidents in which officers who shoot, kill or engage in serious misconduct like falsifying evidence or committing sexual assault while on the job.
A dozen or more other cases are being heard throughout the state, but Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Charles Treat made the first ruling. However, Treat gave the unions representing police officers in Antioch, Concord, Martinez, Richmond and Walnut Creek, as well as the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department, 10 days to appeal Friday's ruling.
Attorneys for the police unions argued the bill shouldn't be retroactive, and should apply only to police records since Jan. 1.
The bill was authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in September.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the First Amendment Coalition and news organizations are all part of this case, which may eventually end up in the California Supreme Court.
The ACLU Foundation of Northern California lauded Friday's ruling. The nonprofit organization represents Richard Perez, who is seeking records related to the killing of his 24-year-old son Pedie Perez in 2014 by a Richmond police officer.
"Mr. Perez deserves to know what happened to his son on that fateful night," said Kathleen Guneratne, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU in a statement. "This law was passed to lift the veil of police secrecy."