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California legislature bolsters free speech and police transparency in 2018 sessions

Contrary to expectations, California lawmakers passed bills that improve access to police records pertaining to  investigations and personnel (SB1421). They also passed AB 748 requiring departments to release video or audio of “critical incidents” involving police use of a firearm or a serious injury or death. And SB 987 requires law enforcement to post current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures and training materials available under the California Public Records Act. AB 3109 strengthens free speech rights by making non-disclosure agreements void if they waive a party’s right to testify about alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment. (California News Publishers Association, December 6, 2018, by Jim Ewert and Nikki Moore)

While California has made strides in public access to police activities, other states are facing opaque walls of obstruction. In Iowa the public may not acquire any record relating to an investigation even those decades old. In Tennessee, a news outlet was denied records of phone logs, travel summaries and credit card purchases of the director of the state Bureau of Investigation even though the request was made to various state departments rather than the District Attorney. (MuckRock, December 10, 2018, by Jessie Gomez)

For prior FAC coverage, click here and here.

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