California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration proposed an end to public disclosure of investigations of abusive and corrupt police officers, handing the responsibility to local agencies in an effort to help cover an estimated $31.5 billion budget deficit. The proposal, part of the governor’s budget package that he is negotiating with the legislature, has prompted criticism from a coalition of criminal justice and press freedom groups, which spent years pushing for the disclosure rules that were part of a law Newsom signed in 2021, reports the Associated Press. The law allows the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to investigate and decertify police officers for misconduct, such as use of excessive force, sexual assault and dishonesty. It requires the agency to make public the records of decertification cases.
The Newsom administration now wants to eliminate that transparency element. The commission says the public could still get the records from police departments. Advocates say departments often resist releasing that information. Some states with a police decertification process, including Republican-led ones such as Tennessee and Georgia, require state agencies to divulge records of police misconduct. In Tennessee, records made available through the requirement provided details on police officers’ actions when they brutally beat Tyre Nichols, a Black man, during a traffic stop earlier this year. In California, removing the transparency element from the 2021 law would continue eroding public trust, said Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker. The city, 45 miles east of San Francisco, was shaken after a federal investigation found more than half of the officers in the police force were in a group text where some officers freely used racial slurs and bragged about fabricating evidence and beating suspects.