The Los Angeles Times is one of 33 newsrooms across the state that have formed a collaborative to analyze police records that became public under a transparency law that took effect this year.
The California Reporting Project — which also includes KPCC, the Orange County Register, KQED, the San Jose Mercury News and other media outlets — has filed requests with more than 600 law enforcement agencies and so far received records of hundreds of incidents in which officers used significant or deadly force, were found to have been dishonest or committed sexual misconduct.
The documents will provide a window into how California police departments evaluate misconduct, shootings and other force by their officers — issues that have fueled criticism that law enforcement agencies aren’t open enough with the areas they serve.
Until then, many significant questions about policing remain unanswered in California.
How many people have been killed by police in California?
What happens to officers who commit misconduct?
For years, California had the nation’s strictest laws on disclosing police personnel records, due in large part to fierce lobbying efforts from powerful law enforcement unions that wanted to keep the files confidential. All internal disciplinary records were confidential.
That changed last year with the passage of Senate Bill 1421, which allows for the release of records of shootings by officers, severe uses of force and confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying by officers. Lawmakers approved the transparency law, which went into effect Jan. 1, amid a heightened debate over how officers use force and interact with communities of color.
Records released under SB 1421 promise to reveal how strict or lenient departments have been in meting out discipline when they fault officers in cases related to significant force, shootings, dishonesty and sexual assault while on duty.