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East County News Service

February 13, 2019 (San Diego) -- The ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) on Monday filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit by several police unions seeking to prevent the release of police misconduct records as required by the state’s new law, the “California Public Records Act” (SB 1421). The ACLU demands that local law enforcement agencies act immediately to comply with the new law.

Until now, California has been one of the nation’s most secretive states when it comes to protecting police records, according to the ACLU. This landmark law, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2019, gives the public unprecedented access to records documenting police shootings, department findings of sexual assault and lying by police officers.

In the lawsuit, attorneys for the police unions in San Diego, Carlsbad, Coronado, El Cajon, National City, Oceanside and San Diego Unified School District argue that SB 1421 does not apply to records created before January 1.  

The ACLU’s motion – on behalf of Flora Rivera, whose brother, Raul Rivera, was shot and killed by multiple law enforcement officers in May 2018 – seeks to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the Rivera family’s right to obtain police records documenting the shooting.

“This law is needed to build and strengthen trust between law enforcement agencies and the public they are sworn to protect,” said Norma Chávez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLUF-SDIC. “It opens up records on officers who have been involved in shootings, found to have committed sexual assault, or found to have engaged in dishonest conduct like lying, planting evidence or falsifying police reports. All Californians have the right to know if their local police departments hold accountable officers who violate the law or department rules, or if these officers are being allowed back on the streets to do more harm.

Although the bill was intended to be applied retroactively, California Attorney General Javier Becerra has refused to release records prior to 2019 and some police departments even destroyed records before the law took effect in January, according to a Sacramento Bee opinion piece which blasted Becerra for what the newspaper’s editorial board called “A calculated betrayal of both the public interest and the law.”

“The ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties together with the Southern California and Northern California affiliates sent records requests to law enforcement agencies on behalf of more than a dozen Californians who are still waiting for answers about the police officers who killed their loved ones,” said ACLUF-SDIC Equity Staff Attorney Melissa DeLeon. “The Rivera family and the public deserve to know what happened and how police use – and abuse their powers.”

Read the ACLUF-SDIC motion to intervene here

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