California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the state’s top law enforcement official, is refusing to follow the law that he has been sworn to uphold. It has been a week now since a court of appeal in Contra Costa County ruled that law enforcement agencies must release records prior to January 1 under California’s police transparency law. The judges found the legal challenge by police unions to be “without merit,” meaning that the decision should go into effect immediately throughout the state.
Yet Becerra said that despite the ruling, he won’t release records of officer involved shootings and other major deadly use of force incidents as well as serious confirmed misconduct from law enforcement agencies within his jurisdiction.
Becerra’s inaction has drawn deserved rebukes, including from state Sen. Nancy Skinner who authored SB 1421. The attorney general has argued that the First District Court of Appeal Decision March 29 is not binding on other courts.
This decision provides more than enough guidance for every agency in the state, and the attorney general is one of the few agencies still arguing against releasing the records based on officer privacy.
Kathleen Guneratne, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, had the following comment in response:
If Becerra wants others to follow the law, he should start by following it himself. The attorney general should provide leadership to law enforcement by clearing the way for the release of his department’s own records and encouraging other police agencies to follow suit. Families have waited years for access to the investigations into the killing of their loved ones, in hopes of some answers.