Updated: March 12, 2021
On March 3, 2021, California’s Second District Court of Appeal broadened the public’s right to view police misconduct records under Senate Bill 1421. Signed into law on January 1, 2019, SB 1421 broadened public access to police misconduct files under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). SB 1421 expands access to records relating to officer involved shootings, serious use of force and sustained finds of sexual assault or serious dishonesty.1
Esteemed Justice Stephen Perren authored the Court’s opinion in Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association v. County of Ventura. The ruling blocked an effort by deputy sheriffs to limit SB 1421 to records created after the Bill’s 2019 passage. The Court confirmed the public’s right to review qualifying records which predate the implementation of the law. According to the Court, the legislative intent behind SB 1421 “was to provide transparency regarding instances of an officer’s use of significant force and sustained findings of officer misconduct by allowing public access to officer-related records maintained either by law enforcement employers or by any state or local agency with independent law enforcement oversight authority.”2 Furthermore, “The Legislature sought to afford the public the right to know all about serious police misconduct, to stop concealing incidents where an officer violated civilian rights, and to address and prevent abuses and weed out the bad actors.”3
The Ventura County Public Defender’s Office spearheaded the successful litigation.4 The ruling marks a major victory for Ventura County Public Defender Claudia Bautista, journalists, and the general public.
(1) Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association v. County of Ventura (2021) 2021 WL 803774, 21 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 2070, at 1.
(2) Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association v. County of Ventura (2021) 2021 WL 803774, 21 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 2070, at 2.
(3) Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association v. County of Ventura (2021) 2021 WL 803774, 21 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 2070, at 1.
(4) “Appellate court allows release of county peace officer misconduct records,” by Megan Diskin, Ventura County Star, March 4, 2021. (Link)