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County judge rules in favor of police records release; unions likely to appeal

First ruling in challenge to new state law allowing public access to some records on officer misconduct

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."

— Bay City News Service

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Feb 11, 2019 at 8:07 am

It is about time those records be made public. The rest of the people in society records are made public and even sometimes broadcasted on TV. There is no reason why the ones who are suppose to be setting the example should not be held to the same standard. Transperancy builds stronger communities.


12 people like this
Posted by SRV Parent
a resident of Danville
on Feb 13, 2019 at 6:04 am

Still waiting for Danville PD to release the results of their investigation into the killing of a motorist in downtown Danville. Chief Shields said it was justified the day after it happened. So no one can say Danville PD are not amazing, they were able to conduct an investigation in one day.


7 people like this
Posted by DANVILLE
a resident of Danville
on Feb 14, 2019 at 9:09 am

Exactly! They are amazing, so no reason why they should fight to keep their records private from the public.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2019 at 6:24 pm

I have always wandered following a police chase of a suspect, and when police surround an armed suspect, rendering the suspect escape impossible.

There are any where from twenty to fifty officers at the scene, when the suspect may suddenly display his body with weapon in hand, all officers on scene open fire, with the suspect sustaining thirty to fifty bullet wounds.

Why is this over kill necessary? Why can't one or two officers be pre designated to shoot preventing this over kill?

Do police officers have an adrenalin rush is shooting into the body of suspect?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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