Aaron Read and
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC
On May 3, PORAC leaders walked the halls of the State Capitol to meet face-to-face with policymakers and stakeholders about key legislation that could possibly impact PORAC members. Among the many measures that PORAC influences, the following four bills were chosen to be specifically highlighted on this year’s Legislative Day.
SB 1286 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)
Peace officers: records of misconduct (PORAC Active Oppose): This bill would allow the public access to records relating to charges of serious misconduct, including sexual assault, racial or identity profiling, illegal search or seizure, job-related dishonesty, or legal violation of the rights of a member of the public, as well as any use of force relating to death or serious bodily injury. It would also allow those who file complaints alleging misconduct to access basic information related to the complaint, including whether the complaint was sustained, the factual findings and any discipline imposed or corrective actions taken.
PORAC fully supports transparency and accountability in policing when carefully balanced with privacy rights and safety of both citizens and law enforcement officers; however, SB 1286 will deter legitimate complaints about police misconduct. By forcing sincere complainants into the public spotlight, this bill fails to adequately safeguard the privacy rights of victims. In addition, SB 1286 will target hardworking, ethical police officers by bombarding local police departments with false, baseless accusations, and it opens the door to uncontrolled public and media forums. This scrutiny and discrimination will inherently affect the morale, recruitment, retention and integrity of police departments, therefore neutralizing effective policing.
AB 1940 by Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove)
Peace officers: body-worn cameras — policies and procedures (PORAC-sponsored bill): This bill requires a law enforcement agency, department or entity, if it employs peace officers and uses body-worn cameras for those officers, to develop a body-worn camera policy. This policy would allow a peace officer to review his or her body-worn camera video and audio recordings before making a report, giving an internal affairs statement or any criminal or civil proceeding.
PORAC supports the use of body-worn cameras when they are implemented and used responsibly. With the addition of a collectively bargained body-worn camera policy that would require an officer to view the footage prior to making a statement, we believe that the reports and conclusions will be more detailed, more relevant and inherently more accurate.
AB 2533 by Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles)
Public safety officers: recording devices — release of recordings (PORAC-sponsored bill): This bill requires three business days’ notice be given to a public safety officer before a public agency releases any audio or video recording of the officer. This allows reasonable time to do the legal preparation when there is a threat to the officer’s safety. Current law allows an officer to go to court in an attempt to stop the release of a video if the officer feels it will be harmful to his or her family. AB 2533 does not change this right. What it does do is prohibit the premature release of these images, allowing officers reasonable notice so they can prevent a potential threat.
This bill is not intended to be confrontational with the media or to hinder officer transparency. PORAC has a history of promoting clarity. We want to have an open and positive relationship with those we protect and serve. This bill does not give an officer any additional rights or authority. It protects officers who are doing a profoundly difficult job. There are public and personal consequences to the release of officer-involved videos.
AB 2611 by Assembly Member Evan Low (D-Campbell)
The California Public Records Act: exemptions (PORAC-sponsored bill): This bill updates the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to cover new technologies and ensure that all victims, including peace officers, are covered by the same protections as a witness.
With the increases in technology, oftentimes victims of sexual crimes or domestic violence are recorded during their initial contact with law enforcement. These videos and the privacy of the victims should be protected by the Act. Furthermore, the CPRA does not address the issue of the release of any video depicting great bodily injury or death of a peace officer while acting in the line of duty. A peace officer receiving serious injuries or making the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of this state deserves to have any related video protected by the Act. The surviving families of these officers should not have to worry that the video depicting their loved one’s death will be open to the public to be viewed over and over again.