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Calif. Lawmakers Approve Police Transparency Legislation

A newly approved set of reform measures could transform policing in the State of California. The State Legislature passed a pair of bills late Friday that will open up internal police investigations and would make body camera footage public.

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1421, which would open up internal police records of officer-involved shootings, and other major force cases.

“Someone who has misconduct and brutalized someone, or hurt or killed someone, we need to know those things and see what type of officers are in our community,” said Cornelius Bowser, a San Diego community organizer.

Activists are celebrating the passage of the bill, claiming the transparency will improve trust between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve.

“I know that there are a lot of family members of people killed by police behind these bills, and this is what they want to see,” said Catherine Mendonca, a San Diego community organizer.

California has some of the toughest police privacy protections. Police unions have typically been against removing the protections, claiming that it’s an intrusion of privacy, and could potentially put an officer’s life at risk.

“We respect everybody’s privacy and safety, but when you’re a public servant, we also have the right to know what type of police officers are in our community,” said Bowser.

Lawmakers in Sacramento also passed Assembly Bill 748. It requires police departments to make body camera footage available to the public within 45 days.

“For families such as the McNeil family, it could actually answer a lot of questions,” said Mendonca.

Earl McNeil died while in police custody in June. His family has been pushing the National City Police Department to release body cam video of the incident.

The new law may force police departments to release the video sooner than they would like. Opponents of the law argue that individual police departments should set their own rules for disclosure.

The new transparency laws must now be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown has not taken a position on either measure.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
Source: NBC San Diego

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