A new law granting public access to police misconduct records is already changing lives, despite attempts by the state’s top cop to stifle disclosure.
One of the first revelations from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner’s Senate Bill 1421 led to trumped-up charges being dropped against an East Bay woman and pending termination for the officer who wrongfully arrested her. In nearby San Mateo County, the DA is poised to reopen a criminal probe into an officer who solicited sex from a DUI detainee after records indicated that it was no isolated incident. Santa Clara County law enforcement agencies have been more circumspect.
Several of them cite California AG Xavier Becerra’s position to block disclosure until the courts decide whether the law applies to records created before it went into effect.
Palo Alto police said they found no proof whatsoever of sexual misconduct or dishonesty by its officers in the past five years, which is either a testament to the agency’s ethics or a huge red flag. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, by way of the county counsel, said SB 1421 disclosures are in the process of being compiled and redacted. A number of other local jurisdictions said the same, if they responded at all.
Laurie Valdez, whose partner was fatally shot by San Jose State cops in 2014, had a deadline for her public records request pushed back by the school and San Jose PD, which oversaw the investigation. SJPD sent similar responses to about a dozen families looking for answers about their loved ones’ fatal police encounters.
Despite its freeze on disciplinary data, SJPD stood out as the most forthcoming of South Bay agencies so far by ID’ing all cops who fired a service weapon in the past decade. As a result, we also now know the names of seven officers who did so more than once.
These are the “repeat offenders,” as civil rights group Silicon Valley De-Bug described them, who were each involved in multiple officer-involved shootings since 2009: Marco Mercado, Jacob Morris, Timothy Faye, Bruce Barthelemy, Ian Cooley, Matthew Blackerby and Eric Bachman.
Releasing their names falls short of SB 1421’s disclosure standards, but it’s a start.