Judge temporarily blocks city from releasing some police misconduct-related documents

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A judge Wednesday temporarily blocked the City of Bakersfield from releasing some documents pertaining to police misconduct. 

The Bakersfield Police Officers Association (BPOA) is suing the city of Bakersfield over a new state law that would give the public the right to see certain records related to police misconduct.     

Signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, Senate Bill 1421 — also known as the Right to Know Act — gives the public the right to obtain certain previously-protected secret records related to police misconduct. The BPOA said releasing such documents would cause irreparable harm to its officers.

In court on Wednesday morning, Judge J. Eric Bradshaw made a temporary ruling, forbidding the city of Bakersfield from releasing certain police misconduct-related documents until at least May 2.

SB 1421 gives the public the right to access records related to any incident where a law enforcement officer fired a gun at a person, used force that resulted in serious injury or death, committed sexual assault against a member of the public, or engaged in dishonesty during the investigation of a crime or police misconduct.

But Brian Ross, the attorney representing the BPOA,  said police records prior to January 1, 2019 should not be released because the new law is not retroactive. 

“Once the rabbit is out of the hat, you can’t put it back in,” he said. “…that’s the irreparable harm, because once your privacy interests are exposed you can’t get that privacy back. So you need to prevent the release of the records in order to ensure privacy interests are protected.” 

The issue also is of interest to the American Civil Liberties Union, co sponsors of the bill. Attorneys representing the ACLU were in court today, requesting the judge allow them to intervene in this case. The judge took that request under submission and said he would provide a ruling by Friday. 

“These are things that members of the public need in order to trust the police,” said Rekha Arulanantham, an attorney with ACLU Southern California. “This bill is for public safety because if the community does not have trust in the police, what are we going to do,” she continued.

Bakersfield Deputy City Attorney Richard Iger stated the city will comply with the judge’s final ruling after May 2, regardless of the decision.

“We’ll apply it however the powers that be determine we should apply it,” he said. 

This ruling applies only to the city of Bakersfield. It does not apply to other agencies, including the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. 

Each side will appear before Judge Bradshaw on May 2nd.
 

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