Private bits

Two bills are circulating in the California Legislature that could open up once-confidential internal police files to the public. Both bills, AB 1648 and SB 1019, seek to unseal police disciplinary records, internal reviews and citizen complaints maintained by state and local agencies.

“These pieces of legislation are necessary to promote transparency and accountable policing,” said Mark Schlosberg, police practices policy director for the Northern California division of the ACLU.

Both bills are heavily opposed by police organizations that fear personal information will be made available to the same criminals that officers lock up, possibly compromising their safety. “They are the ones who arrest, apprehend and incarcerate the garbage of the world,” said James Frayne, legislative director for the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

Advocates say police opposition is groundless. “[Their] best arguments are scare tactics that have been proven untrue in the over 25 other states that have greater access to information about police complaints in California,” said Schlosberg.

SB 1019 passed through the Senate committee on public safety and has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. AB 1648 presently is stalled in committee with no set hearing date.