San Jose Agrees to Expedite Police Document Launch Following Media Lawsuit – Occasions-Herald
SAN JOSE – After a two-year stalemate, the San Jose Police Department signed a legal settlement with the Bay Area News Group to release records of violence and disciplinary matters in a timely manner, having once claimed it would be admitted for up to four years to meet requests for such records under a landmark Police Transparency Act of 2018.
The settlement between this news organization and the City of San Jose is determined by a commitment to produce most of the requested material within 30 days. It will also force the police department to retrain officers in documenting violence and deepen their assessment of incidents leading to injury to expand on what can be classified as disclosable.
“Popular control over government is vital to our democracy, and local news organizations have a duty to ensure officials are held accountable to the public they serve,” said Frank Pine, editor-in-chief of the Bay Area News Group . “While it is unfortunate that we had to sue the City of San Jose for timely release of public records, we are glad that the city has decided to resolve the matter and has agreed to expedite documents disclosure in the future.”
Since the Transparency Act SB 1421 came into effect, the newsgroup has taken a leading role in the fight against police agencies and law enforcement unions to ensure compliance with disclosure requirements. Along with fellow members of a local media coalition, she sued law enforcement agencies in Contra Costa County and won an appeals court ruling requiring resolved departments to keep records of all incidents, not just those that occur after the law goes into effect. Yet authorities across the state have dragged their feet into the disclosure, and SJPD was among the more resilient.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was outraged, among other things, by the delay in SJPD compliance and the first 2023 completion date that four years’ worth of records was given to this news organization. But he also said he was aware of the staff and other additional resources needed to sift through years of records and review footage from body cameras.
“I am grateful that cooler heads prevailed and that we were all able to find a solution that ensures that the public’s right to know is not compromised,” said Liccardo.
“We faced a situation where both sides were right. The media appropriately wanted access to ensure transparency and accountability in decision-making regarding police discipline, and cities are hampered by state privacy and staff laws that restrict any of our movements and subject us to very costly litigation if too much is disclosed becomes. “
In addition to speeding up record disclosure, the city agreed to change the form used by officers to report armed forces to “identify more types of injuries” to provide details of “all injuries identified as” serious / significant ” . “
This component came from reviews of police records by this news organization which found different thresholds for serious injury. Head injuries and broken teeth, for example, usually required disclosure, but some detainees’ hospitalizations did not appear to be up to police standards. Records that have been released have shown that discipline is seldom made available to officers for serious violence.
Additionally, the settlement increases what the city and ministry must provide evidence to apply for a disclosure exemption. Initially, the department attempted to exclude dozens of cases, some of which were older than a decade, citing pending legal proceedings.
The city also agreed to pay most of the Bay Area News Group’s legal fees for the lawsuit, which was filed last summer.
SB 1421, written by Berkeley-based Senator Nancy Skinner, went into effect in January 2019, forcing authorities to release previously protected personnel files involving police officers who used fatal force or who had caused or proven to have serious injuries in the workplace have sexual assault or dishonesty in service.
Skinner is now looking to use Senate Bill 16 to require additional police disclosure, including more types of official wrongdoing and limiting the exceptions to confidentiality, while imposing civil penalties for continued violation of the law.
Tenaya Rodewald, attorney for the Bay Area News Group, said the San Jose settlement reaffirmed an important public need to undo 40 years of “excessive law enforcement secrecy” in California.
“People clearly need this type of information to understand what happened in certain cases of violence or misconduct and to determine whether the officers and the department acted appropriately,” Rodewald said. “However, the information is also vital in determining patterns in the use of violence and misconduct and how broader policing reforms can be implemented.”