When it comes to police records,

what is your right-to-know?

Police Reform expansion triggers states to debate whether police complaint records and body cam footage should be subject to Public Record Laws.

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Legislation

California police reform bill faces growing opposition days before the session ends

Senate Bill 731, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would create a commission that would oversee certifying and decertifying police officers. Beginning in 2021, police officers would need a certificate, renewable every two years, to work in a police department in California. Certification would be revoked if the officer in question is involved in major crimes such as use of excessive force, sexual assault, making a false arrest, or participating in a law enforcement gang. A Peace Officer Standards Accountability Division would also be created to oversee the investigation side of the new commission.

The board in charge, the Peace Officer Standards Accountability Advisory Board, would make proceedings open to the public. Any records that have to do with officer investigations would be made available to the public for 30 years.

SB 731 would also make police standards higher, not allowing certification for those convicted of “an administrative, military, or civil judicial process as having committed a violation of certain specified crimes against public justice, including the falsification of records, bribery, or perjury.” Police would also no longer have financial immunity if they are sued for their actions while working.

The bill quickly moved through the Senate, including garnering a unanimous 38-0 floor vote in May.

Those who oppose SB 731, which included many police organizations, have said that while they aren’t opposed with some parts of the bill, such as decertification, the fact that civilian panels have the power to preside over decisions over officers futures, which could include members of the community inherently biased against them, would severely harm police departments.

Read More | California Globe 

Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission could soon recommend unsealing specific police complaints

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission (MPCOC) has moved one step closer toward recommending the opening of sealed police complaints where the complaints were sustained, but the officers received “coaching corrections” and not more serious disciplinary measures.

MPCOC Commissioner, Abigail Cerra, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she thinks the sustained complaints, with “coaching corrections,” are a form of structured, and procedural discipline with a lot of investigation that the public should see.

“In order to have transparency and restore faith in our oversight, we really need to have this data be public,” said Cerra. “We really need to know what’s happening in MPD in terms of what happens with a complaint and what type of discipline is being imposed.”

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission subcommittee approved the proposed recommendation, and the full commission will take up the issues at its next meeting on Sept. 8.

Read More | KSTP News

South Carolina Press Association urges lawmakers to grant public access to body cameras

Under current body camera legislation in South Carolina, footage captured by law enforcement is exempt from public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act.

The SCPA [South Carolina Press Association] president wants to change that, and he sent letters to editors of newspapers across South Carolina Monday [Aug. 24] to lobby on their behalf. A letter was also sent to the subcommittee along with proposed amendments to the body camera bill.

The Law Enforcement Officer Training, Tactics, Standards and Accountability Subcommittee of the House Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee will hold its hearing at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, [Sept. 1]. The subcommittee is not allowing public testimony for the hearing, but SCPA president Bill Rogers said he hopes the legislators take his letter and proposed amendments into consideration.

The proposed amendments drafted by Press Association Attorney Taylor Smith also include that body camera devices must be worn and activated when confronting citizens, and should not be de-activated until the officer has left the scene.

The Press Association proposal also includes language that footage may not be withheld from the public on the basis that it was compiled for law enforcement purposes or for an investigatory record.

Read More | Greenville News

Debate over New Mexico body camera law far from settled

A new law set to take effect in September requires all law enforcement officers in New Mexico to wear body cameras and keep them rolling during interactions with the public.

A number of agencies in the state have used the devices for years. For others, however, the practice is new, and issues surrounding it are far from settled.

The measure, backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, passed the Legislature during a special session in June that came amid a nationwide wave of demonstrations against police brutality and racism that erupted after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Some stakeholders raised questions Tuesday [Aug. 18] about whether cameras should be turned off to protect the privacy rights of some crime victims or during medical procedures. They also asked whether the use of the cameras might deter certain groups, such as undocumented immigrants, from seeking police assistance.

Some who weighed in during the hearing wondered whether policies should be created to allow officers to switch off their cameras under certain circumstances.

But state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said that would defeat the purpose of the new law. It would be better, she said, to keep the cameras rolling at all times — as required by the law — and create polices to address how the video is disseminated.

Read More | Government Technology

Peer Feature

City of Houston launched a new software system to streamline all Texas Public Information Act Requests

Starting Aug. 24, members of the media and public can submit a TPIA request online using GovQA instead of filing in person or by email. The software will track public records requests across multiple City departments, standardize records processing, and fulfill requests in accordance with Texas Law.

The system will help the city plan for the direct costs associated with records processing and ensure the public receives complete and accurate records.

“By implementing the information management platform, my administration is setting another example for efficient and transparent government,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “GovQA will centralize and secure public records requests and reduce the amount of time our employees devote to processing paperwork.”

GovQA, will allow requesters to submit a public records request, track its progress, and receive updates by email. Requesters will also have access to all correspondence or notes about specific requests and be able to download electronic records deliverables.

The user-friendly web portal will offer more payment options, including electronic checks, credit, and debit cards.

Read More | HoustonTX.gov

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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