Faced with having to give the public access to records of police shootings, the California city of Inglewood has decided to destroy the records instead.
The decision was made by the City Council earlier this month and included cases in which the police investigated officer-involved shootings and cases of sexual assault and lying on duty.
All in all, Inglewood plans to destroy records on about 100 cases, the Los Angeles Times reported.
California’s Senate Bill 1421, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires that all investigations into areas regarding the use of force and misconduct be made public.
“The legislature passed SB 1421 because communities demanded an end to the secrecy cloaking police misconduct and use of force,” said Marcus Benigno, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Inglewood PD’s decision to purge records undermines police accountability and transparency against the will of Californians.”
Inglewood is not wiping out all records. It had preserved records that date back to 1991. The destruction planned for older records will not impact those that state law requires to be kept for five years.
The city said that the records being destroyed were “obsolete, occupy valuable space, and are of no further use to the police department.”
The law is causing ripples among police agencies around the state.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association has gone to court to prevent disclosure of existing files, according to another Los Angeles Times report.
The union “is very concerned about any plans to retroactively apply Senate Bill 1421,” union leader Grant Ward said in a statement. “We believe retroactive application violates our members’ rights and we hope the California Supreme Court will consider the serious issues raised by our legal challenge.”
The union wants the law to only cover new cases beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
Democratic State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who developed the legislation, said the union is misreading the law.
“If the record exists, it’s disclosable,” Skinner said.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore has said the law will require police time that could be better spent fighting crime.
Moore said that in LA, it could take 300,000 hours just to provide the past five years’ worth of records.
“The LAPD operates with a guiding principle of Reverence for the Law; as such, we will diligently comply with SB 1421,” Moore wrote in an open letter to Skinner. “We maintain, however, that a retroactive implementation of SB 1421 will be exceptionally burdensome and would require significant reallocation of front-line investigative personnel.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.