Law enforcement agencies in California will soon be legally obliged to post their guidelines online

Law enforcement agencies in California will soon be legally obliged to post their guidelines online

The new law takes into effect on January 1st, 2020 for local police and sheriffs departments

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Edited by JPat Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a handful of bills this week including new legislation that increases transparency within local jurisdictions in California. Specifically, two new laws provide open access to internal police records and body camera footage to the public.

In addition, SB 978 was signed, which requires law enforcement agencies to publish their “training, policies, practices, and operating procedures.” The new law, introduced by Senator Steven Bradford (D - Gardena) will take effect on January 1st, 2020 with information posted on law enforcement websites by then.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was a strong supporter of the bill and citing that it “would lead to enhanced transparency” in a letter to Bradford.

EFF senior investigative researcher Dave Maass said this was a two-year effort for the group as a similar bill, SB-345, they endorsed was vetoed by the Governor last year. Last year’s bill required state agencies to post their training and procedures online, as opposed to the recently passed SB-978 that only holds that requirement for local police and sheriff departments and only one state agency, California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

“One thing we found is that we are constantly sending FOIAs for policies, use of social media, and misconduct investigations or use of force,” said Maass. “It’s better for everyone if they [posted it] proactively and the public didn’t have to file request after request.”

Typically, law enforcement agencies have a policy guidebook for their directives. However, the new law is fairly broad in terms of what documents agencies should post. Maass says he’s interested in seeing how agencies interpret the new law and how they comply.

“What happens with the training materials? Are they putting videos up? It’ll be interesting to see how it will work on a variety of levels and if they describe what they didn’t put online,” said Maass. “This is a win-win for all but, I do wish it was a little stronger.”

The EFF’s support letter is embedded below:

Image via Town of Ross