Legal Alerts Jan 16, 2019

California Attorney General’s Office Clarifies its Information Bulletin Regarding Public Access to Police Records

Information Bulletin Regarding SB 1421 Does Not Impose New Records Retention Requirements

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Senate Bill 1421 affords the public access to police personnel records related to reports, investigations and findings, via the California Public Records Act process (not the familiar Pitchess process). The reports fall under three general categories: job-related dishonesty, sexual assault against a member of the public and specified use-of-force incidents. SB 1421 took effect on Jan. 1.
 
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra quickly responded with Information Bulletin No. 2019-DLE-01 on Jan. 3,  which instructs law enforcement agencies “to preserve all records that may be subject to disclosure” under SB 1421. The Bulletin stresses that all paper files and electronically stored information need to be preserved. 
 
In response to a recent inquiry regarding preservation, a member of the Attorney General’s legal staff explained that the Bulletin was not intended to impose any new or different preservation of records obligations on cities or law enforcement agencies, and that cities and law enforcement agencies were at liberty to follow previously established records preservation/destruction processes in accordance with California Government Code sections 34090 et seq., and Penal Code section 832.5(b), in consultation with their attorney’s advice.
 
According to the Attorney General’s office, law enforcement agencies are authorized to determine which records are to be retained under the applicable law. The Bulletin was simply a reminder to follow the guidelines explicitly required by California law.
 
For more information about SB 1421, the Attorney General’s Bulletin or how either may impact your organization, please contact the authors of this Legal Alert listed at the right in the firm’s Municipal Law practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
 
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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