Some misguided politicians and anti-cop activist groups are pushing a proposed new law, SB 1286, authored by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), to strip away the privacy protections from California police officers, sheriffs’ and highway patrolmen, which has been in place for almost 40 years. Why? Because they think providing confidential information contained in an officer’s personnel file will increase trust between the community and law enforcement. It’s nonsense and the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) is opposed and will fight this dangerous proposal.
Senator Leno’s bill is a solution in search of a problem. Currently, police officers are held accountable in California when they violate their respective department’s policies or the law. In Los Angeles, the civilian Police Commission reviews incidents where officers use force and determines if that force was within policy. Also in Los Angeles, a civilian representative sits on the Police Department’s “Board of Rights” disciplinary panel. This panel holds police officers accountable when found guilty of violating Department policy. Lastly, any police officer who is accused of committing a criminal act, working as a police officer, faces potential criminal prosecution with an enhanced charge known as “under the color of authority.”
SB 1286 will not hold more police officers “accountable.” It will not make punishments for breaking the law under the color of authority sterner. It certainly will not do anything to satisfy the concerns of vocal anti-police activists.
So what will SB 1286 do? It will make trial attorneys a whole lot of money as they seek every bit of information contained in a police officer’s personnel file so they can inflate the amount they seek to settle litigation against public agencies. It will make it easier for activist groups to cherry-pick and sensationalize information in an officer’s personnel file to add fuel to political fires. It will invade the privacy rights that virtually every other employee is guaranteed by the State and Federal Constitution. Building trust is the last thing this ill-conceived bill will do.
SB 1286 is a dishonest and dangerous attempt to kowtow to vocal anti-cop activists. Activists that apparently only protest when there is an officer-involved shooting or use-of-force incident. We didn’t see extended protests when one-year old Autumn Johnson was gunned down in her crib in Compton. Cars were not set on fire and rioting did not occur when Maria Cordova, an expecting mother, was murdered in Boyle Heights. Last week, the LAPD informed us that over a 14-day period there were 14 homicides, 104 shootings and 53 gunshot victims. Violent crime was up 12.2 percent year-to-date. That’s over last year’s already escalated rate. Where is the outrage over these incidents?
The bill’s supporters wrongly lump all Californians into the same category as the most vocal activists in terms of lack of trust in law enforcement. Don’t believe the hype. The reality is that everyday we see firsthand the support we have in the communities we patrol. What residents want, quite simply, is to be safe in their neighborhoods and have the police respond as quickly and effectively as possible when needed.
What’s ironic is that many of the same activists pushing SB 1286 are simultaneously waging a national battle to protect the privacy of the mass shooter from San Bernardino. Yes, let anyone from the public access a police officer’s private personnel file, but do not let our counterterrorism experts access a terrorist’s iPhone. SB 1286 is a solution in search of a problem.
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