In an effort to decrease law enforcement’s fatal use of force and to create more transparency in shooting investigations, California lawmakers are introducing two pieces of legislation: The Police Accountability and Community Protection Act and Senate Bill 1421.
The Police Accountability Act, introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), would establish that officers can only use deadly force if necessary to prevent imminent injury or death, given that there was no other alternative available, including verbal warning on nonlethal de-escalation. It would also establish that an officer-involved fatality is not justifiable if the officer’s behavior made the subsequent use of force necessary.
SB 1421, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would give the public access to police records that pertain to serious use-of-force investigations, such as police shootings, and complaints against officers for professional dishonesty, such as sexual assault or planting evidence.
Law enforcement has argued that those records should remain private to uphold the integrity of investigations and to protect officers’ privacy. But advocates say the public deserves to know how law enforcement disciplines its officers in cases of misconduct, and points to the fact that California has some of the toughest laws against disclosing police records in the U.S.
Annie Gilbertson, KPCC’s investigative reporter, encountered many of California’s information roadblocks when reporting on the shooting of Tennell Billups by L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Gonzalo Inzunza, for her podcast “Repeat.” Like many California Sheriff’s Departments, the L.A. County Sheriffs Dept. investigate its own officers’ shootings, with no outside oversight. As Gilbertson found in her reporting, the records on those investigations are not accessible – but if SB 1421 passed, those records would be available to the public.
Larry Mantle talks with Annie Gilberston about her process of reporting “Repeat” and trying to get information from L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. Plus, we debate the two pieces of legislation.
Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California and director of police practices for the ACLU of California; the organization is a sponsor of both bills
Ed Fishman, legal defense administrator with the Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents over 70,000 public safety members and over 930 law enforcement-related associations