✅ Greater access to police records

Police officers in Balwin Park on Aug. 6, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Police officers in Balwin Park on Aug. 6, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

By Byrhonda Lyons 


SB 16 by Berkeley Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner would expand the public’s access to police records — allowing them to view sustained findings in which an officer used unreasonable force, failed to intervene when another officer used excessive force, engaged in racist or biased behavior, or conducted unlawful arrests and searches. It also would allow release of records after an officer resigns, put a 45-day limit on when agencies must respond to records requests, and remove the time limit on when judges can consider police misconduct complaints to be admissible in criminal cases.


The American Civil Liberties Union, the California News Publishers Association, the California Public Defenders, the California Police Chiefs Association and a long list of civil rights organizations. Supporters see this bill as a way to hold more police accountable.


Originally opponents included the League of California Cities, which argued that the bill would place a substantial burden on city budgets, and the California State Sheriffs’ Association, which contended the bill was too broad. Both dropped their opposition after the bill was amended to limit mandatory release of information only in sustained cases, not every incident.


California is one of the most restrictive states in the nation when it comes to releasing police misconduct records. In 2018, the Legislature passed a law giving  the public access to police records if officers lied during an investigation, sexually assaulted someone, or used their guns or other force in a case in which someone was seriously injured or died. This bill would further expand that access.