The First Amendment Coalition today launched a comprehensive new handbook on accessing public records related to police misconduct and use of force in California.
The Police Transparency Guide provides an overview of California’s landmark access laws that make more categories of records available to the public, with the latest information about how courts across the state have interpreted them. The guide’s lead author, Tenaya Rodewald of the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, has been at the forefront of the court battles to enforce the new laws, representing FAC and news organizations in their quests for transparency.
The guide provides essential information about who and what are covered by the laws, how agencies and unions have responded in court, what to expect in terms of cost for records and audio/video recordings, and much more.
The Police Transparency Guide consists of three sections:
- a Legal Compendium, featuring an overview of the key statutes and what relevant case means for your ability to access information;
- an in-depth FAQ; and
- two sample request letters, one for records accessible under SB 1421 and one for recordings of critical incidents under AB 748.
“As this year’s movement for racial justice demonstrated, Americans are demanding accountability for police misconduct — but accountability cannot happen without transparency,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “Our guide aims to help journalists, activists, ordinary citizens — everyone — bring police misconduct into the light, where it belongs.”
Rodewald, a recognized authority on the transparency laws, added: “It is critically important for the public to have better information about how police officers interact with the public and do their jobs, as recent protests helped show. Protecting the public’s right of access to government records is essential to the democratic process. I’m very pleased to create a resource that is available to anyone seeking answers about police conduct in California.”
The guide is FAC’s newest educational resource, designed for journalists, media lawyers, activists and anyone who seeks to exercise their right to know about their government.
Using the Police Transparency Guide
The guide is published on FAC’s website and available to all at no cost. Bookmark this page or access a printable PDF at Sheppard Mullin’s website. We also encourage you to download the components from our website. Questions? You can submit a query to our Legal Hotline and get an answer from open-government experts.
We Want Your Feedback
FAC’s attorneys are already turning to the guide to provide reporters on deadline with advice on how to access records. We’d like to hear how you use it in your work and what feedback you have for us. If you would like to use the guide in the classroom, in a newsroom or in any other setting and would like a copy in another format, contact the FAC team at FAC@firstamendmentcoalition.org.
About FAC’s Open-Government Resources
The Police Transparency Guide is the newest addition to FAC’s body of free, educational resources. FAC has published information about the California Public Records Act, the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Bagley-Keene Act, both governing public meetings in California, and various sample letters, including one for using the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA letter here). FAC has also published a sample PRA reply letter for use during the coronavirus pandemic, should an agency refuse to comply citing the public health emergency.
Keep FAC’s Resources Free
FAC’s open-government guides, Legal Hotline and other resources are free thanks to supporters like you. Consider giving to FAC today or hosting your own fundraiser on Facebook.