California law gives anyone the right to walk into a police department and inspect a wide variety of information, from crime and arrest reports to statistics on officer-misconduct complaints, say the MediaNews newspapers. A statewide audit of such access shows a wide gap between the law and the reality of what happens when people ask to see public information at police stations.
Police often violated laws that mandate open access to public records and delayed for weeks the release of ordinary reports, intimidating people who asked for them, and researching their backgrounds, said the audit of more than 200 departments and California Highway Patrol offices. More than 60 journalists took part in the audit Dec. 4 in 34 of California’s 58 counties. The effort was coordinated by Californians Aware, a Sacramento-based group that advocates transparent government and records access. Police in Pico Rivera, near Los Angeles, said people “can’t just walk in here and make these kind of requests.”