Contra Costa County (California) Superior Court Judge Charles Treat A judge ruled that a new state law requires California police departments to release records on officer shootings and misconduct that may date back years, reports the Associated Press. The ruling was the first in more than a dozen cases around the state involving a law designed to guarantee public access to police records involving investigations into officer shootings, use-of-force incidents that caused great bodily injury or death, and those involving officers found to have committed misconduct such as sexual assault or falsifying evidence.
The decision, which the judge put on hold for 10 days so that police unions can appeal, e “gives hope to those who have long fought for such disclosures, especially black and brown communities that have long been subjected to police violence,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The organization represented Richard Perez, who is seeking records related to the 2014 killing of his 24-year-old son, “Pedie” Perez, by a Richmond officer. Dozens of police agencies have released at least some records. Some police unions argued that the law should apply only to records created after the law took effect on Jan. 1 and that previous personnel records are covered by longstanding law enforcement employee privacy laws. The judge said the law doesn’t change the liability that an officer would face for past conduct. “Police brutality was just as illegal in 2018 as it is in 2019,” the judge wrote “All that has changed is an increased chance that illegal or improper conduct will come to public light.”