ACLU Applauds State Senate Vote to Restore Public Oversight of Police

June 4, 2007 12:00 am

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SACRAMENTO – The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California applauded today’s state Senate vote to restore public access to records and public hearings related to complaints about police misconduct.

In a 22-to-11 vote, the Senate approved a bill overturning the state Supreme Court’s Aug. 29, 2006 decision in Copley Press v. San Diego, which blocked public access to records about police complaints and effectively stopped police commissions from holding open hearings.

“The Senate bill allows local jurisdictions and state agencies to provide transparency around police complaints,” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “Police misconduct that is shrouded in secrecy damages community-police relations and erodes public trust.”

Since the Copley ruling, civilian oversight agencies have stopped holding public disciplinary hearings and police records previously open to the public have been closed. The Copley decision has affected agencies throughout the state including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland. The bill, SB 1019, effectively restores the law to the pre-Copley status quo, allowing local jurisdictions to create or revive open police review processes. It also allows certain information to be discussed behind closed doors if there is concern that the release of the information would endanger an officer’s safety or operational security.

“Passage of SB 1019 is the first step in lifting the cloak of secrecy over police misconduct and restoring some measure of police accountability,” said Maya Harris, ACLU of Northern California Executive Director. “Community members have the right to know how policing is being conducted in their neighborhoods. SB 1019 moves us back in that direction.”

The law has garnered widespread support from a diverse array of individuals and organizations. Supporters include Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker, San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, the National Black Police Association, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the ACLU, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Los Amigos of Orange County, and Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights.

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