Destruction of public records
Q: Do local police departments have the right to destroy police logs a month (or any time) after their original publication?
A: The California Public Records Act (“PRA”) does not prevent state or local agencies (such as local police departments) from destroying public records. In the context of discussing exemption of particular records, the PRA expressly recognizes that agencies do not retain records indefinitely. See Cal. Gov’t Code section 6254(a).Please be aware that California Government Code section 34090 requires the retention of city records less than two years old. After that time period (and unless the records are required to be kept by statute), the head of the police department may destroy city records only with the approval of the legislative body and written consent of the city attorney. The full text of Section 34090 provides as follows:Unless otherwise provided by law, with the approval of the legislative body by resolution and the written consent of the city attorney the head of a city department may destroy any city record, document, instrument, book or paper, under his charge, without making a copy thereof, after the same is no longer required.This section does not authorize the destruction of:
(a) Records affecting the title to real property or liens thereon.
(b) Court records.
(c) Records required to be kept by statute.
(d) Records less than two years old.
(e) The minutes, ordinances, or resolutions of the legislative body or of a city board or commission.
This section shall not be construed as limiting or qualifying in any manner the authority provided in Section 34090.5 for the destruction of records, documents, instruments, books and papers in accordance with the procedure therein prescribed. California Government Code section 34090.5 allows for the destruction of records without approval of the legislative body or written consent of the city attorney if copies that satisfy the requirements of Section 34090.5(a)-(d) are complied with (for example, such as the requirement that the copies accurately and legibly reproduce the original, the copies be kept in a safe and separate place, etc.). I was unable to locate any California statutory or case authority governing or discussing the destruction of police logs.
Please note that police departments are required to maintain complaints and reports relating to complaints against peace officers for at least five years. Cal. Penal Code section 832.5(b). With respect to the specific question posed in your submission, unless the requirements of California Government Code 34090 are met, local police departments do not have the right to destroy police logs within a month of their creation.