FAC, Media Coalition Fight New Effort to Weaken CA Police Transparency Law

A coalition of media groups led by the First Amendment Coalition (FAC) today filed court papers challenging yet another attempt by a police union to undermine a new, landmark police transparency law in California—this time in Los Angeles County.

The law (SB 1421), which went into effect on Jan. 1, requires a slew of formerly confidential police records be made available to the public, including those involving police shootings and accusations of police misconduct.

FAC already successfully opposed one attempt by a police union in San Bernardino County to make the law apply only to records created after January 1—the California Supreme Court denied the union’s request on Jan. 2 after FAC filed a briefing to block the last-ditch effort. If it had been successful, the police union’s effort would have blocked public access to records of police misconduct that took place before January 1, 2019 — i.e. access to most existing records.

Now, a similar attempt is taking place in Los Angeles County. On December 31, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, another police union, stealthily obtained a temporary order prohibiting the retroactive enforcement of SB 1421—meaning, again, that the public would have access only to records created after January 1, 2019.

As in the California Supreme Court effort, FAC is leading a media coalition to oppose this ruling to prevent it from becoming permanent.

“Try as they might, we are confident the police unions will fail in this effort to gut a law duly passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “Their interpretation of SB 1421 is not only contrary to the clear language and purpose of the law, but would have a serious and detrimental effect on transparency broadly.”

Joining FAC in the effort are the Los Angeles Times, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the California News Publishers Association, the Bay Area News Group, and the Southern California News Group.

A hearing is set on this issue for Feb. 5 at 1:30 p.m. The case is Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles, et al, Case No. 18STCP03495, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

See the FAC coalition’s key legal arguments and full set of papers filed today. See also the papers filed by the union and the order it obtained on December 31.

FAC and the media coalition are represented in this matter by James Chadwick and Tenaya Rodewald of the Sheppard Mullin law firm.

For more information, contact:

David Snyder
Executive Director
First Amendment Coalition

James Chadwick
Sheppard Mullin