Watchdog groups have lauded Senate Bill 1421 that requires transparency in cases of police misconduct. They say the law will lead to better relationships between communities and the officers sworn to protect them. Some law enforcement unions aren’t so sure.
“There’s a little bit more scrutiny on cops and there should be, but you shouldn’t have to give up your rights,” says president of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Association, Bill Young.
The Peace Officer Release of Records Act should have taken effect on January 1, 2019 but because of lawsuits, records cannot be released in the county.
Young says his union is among those who are in litigation, “In an effort to protect the rights of the officers we’ve stepped forward with multiple other associations and had a restraining order issued until a later date where we can have a judge hear and look to see if it was meant to be retroactive or not because the law clearly states just now moving forward.”
And that’s their main argument, not if it should be implemented but when it should apply.
“That’s where the question lies and we as well as the other associations feel that if it was meant to be retroactive they would have spelled it out as being retroactive,” says Young.
Young says if this law was in place long ago, not only could it have changed minds of those pursuing a career in law enforcement, “Maybe it would change people’s decision if they felt that by becoming a cop I‘m giving my right to unlawful search and seizure and all that we’re not saying that we want to hide everything, we’re just saying is there is a process, there was a process in place,” adding but also their decisions as officers, “maybe they’re accused of something and for the sake of simplicity and for their life said, ‘I‘ll take my written reprimand or I‘ll take my hours, just to go away,’ but if they would have known now that maybe in the future that would have been something that can be plastered all over the media or put out for the public knowledge they would have fought it in court and had their day in court like everybody else.”
Bottom line, Young says both watchdog groups and unions want bad cops off the streets and they could accomplish more by having honest conversations, “I think we could actually come to a really good agreement and work well together.”
Young also says this law doesn’t give counties, already in the red, monies to process the requests that have already flooded departments.
The next court date will be in March.