For months now Cities state wide have been bracing themselves as new police records laws are rolled out. That being SB 1421 and AB748 and the associated costs and man hours in fulfilment and compliance. These changes bring to an end decades of secrecy and non disclosure in respect of personnel police files. The new laws mandate that agencies make available videos and investigating records where the use of force and shootings result in serious bodily harm. The new police records laws also require case records of police misconduct where officers have behaved dishonestly and/or a sexual assault has taken place. An estimated $250,000 annually is anticipated in order to comply with the new laws. Officials in Fremont have advised, as they prepare to release thirteen incidents (shootings and misconduct), that this alone will take 1,268 hours to prepare. The new policies have not been embraced, adopted or welcomed by all with Fremont maintaining that “critical incidents” (death or serious injury) are unavailable under The Public Records Act as they are classified as evidence, this policy now being overturned by AB 748.
City staff analysis confirms that around a quarter of a million will be required solely to process police shootings (videos) and additional incidents. The costs are inclusive redacting confidential information and will require hiring in new staff who will also have to review videos. The costs for compliance with SB 1421 would seem even more onerous owing to the expansive requirements. The revised criteria now takes in additional investigative files as well as being available for public scrutiny. Information can still be redacted such as financial and medical information, home address details, along with officers who were cleared of any misconduct. Prior to the implementation of the new police records laws the potential impacts were analyzed (2017). There were a total of 8 complaints (sustained) and 5 incidents of ‘use of force’ resulting in great bodily injury or death. The definition of great bodily injury by the force is the same as that used by the State Department of Justice.
In order to review the 13 recordings of these incidents and make the information available to the public it is anticipated 78 hours will be required by the chief of police. The same amount of time would be required by a Captain. To review the same videos a deputy city attorney will be required to spend 233 hours. Analysis also confirmed that 10 city staff will be required to work a total of 1,268 hours. Increased staffing is anticipated across the Bay area. In Richmond the police are reviewing software which automates the redacting of records, this potentially saving substantial staff time. Another compliance option for the new police records laws is body cameras for jail guards and police. The reasoning behind the potential $3.9 million spend on an Axon contract by The San Mateo County Sheriff’s office is that the Axon cameras together with Evidence (.com) software allows for the redaction of videos to be far less labor intensive.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department have advised a potential cost of $354,524.22 to cover the redaction and review of records of 48 cases (use of force). The cost for an additional 28 cases is still under review. The department has put forward a case ( under section 6253.9(b)(2)) which permits the agency to charge for the enquiry. The department will look to charge for the costs incurred inclusive the employees salary noting this as $33.80 hourly. However the court case identified by The San Diego Department is currently under review. (California Supreme Court). Therefore this case currently is not a citable precedent. In January KPBS were quoted by the department a fee of around $40,215.83 for redacted records in relation to 3 sustained cases of sexual assault together with eleven sustained cases of dishonest behavior by a deputy. The costs breakdown detailed work involved for each case, that being copying paper records and redacting information from electronic files as we as audio and video.
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