A judge is expected to rule by mid-February on whether the Berkeley, Ca., Police Review Commission can continue to hold public hearings on allegations of officer misconduct, says the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Ca. The process provides a rare glimpse into how the government investigates abuse accusations. The Berkeley commission and a similar body in Oakland stopped public hearings after the state Supreme Court ruled in August that officer disciplinary records are confidential, even when a government entity other than a police department has them.
The San Francisco and Los Angeles police departments also halted public hearings of misconduct allegations. In nearly all California cities, such investigations are conducted in private. Police personnel records are not public under state law. The California Newspaper Publishers Association will seek passage of a state law that would make public records of misconduct allegations that are sustained. “The public has an overriding interest in (access to) confirmed incidents of misconduct,” said a spokesman for the group. Berkeley’s commission has conducted open reviews of complaints for 33 years. A former Berkeley commission member said the public should be clamoring for reform. “There has been a very real impact on public knowledge about what is going on in police departments,” said Mark Schlosberg, who is now working for the American Civil Liberties Union.