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California police misconduct records will remain secret after bill dies in committee

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) supported SB 1286. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) supported SB 1286. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s strict policy against releasing information about police misconduct will remain in place after a Senate committee killed a bill Friday that would have opened up some records to public disclosure.

SB 1286 from Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) would have allowed the public to access internal reports in cases where police departments found their officers had committed sexual assault or racial profiling, lied on the job or other significant examples of misconduct. It also would have made available investigations of officer-involved shootings and other major use-of-force cases.

The bill had faced substantial opposition from law enforcement groups and was held in the Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Friday without discussion.

California is one of just three states that specifically protect all internal police records from public view. Leno, who will leave the Senate at the end of the year because of term limits, had tried multiple times over the past decade to unwind some of the state’s police confidentiality rules. In recent years, police shootings and other high-profile use-of-force cases across the country had eroded trust in law enforcement, Leno had argued, and opening up the police disciplinary process would help gain it back.

But law enforcement organizations contended the bill would invade officer privacy while existing civilian review boards and potential prosecution provided enough outside accountability of police.

"Strong relationships between the community and law enforcement is critical to good policing," Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement. "However, SB 1286 was poorly written, with no input from law enforcement and would have done nothing to improve relationships with the community."

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