Transparency is absolutely essential to government. It helps ensure that problems are acknowledged and addressed. With the exception of a handful of issues generally involving negotiations on contracts, services and land purchases, open government should be the norm.
That's why it was so heartening when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1421 into law last year. The law amended existing rules to require that police make available records detailing police shootings, police interactions with the public that turned violent, and sustained complaints of officers' sexual assaults and lying. Previously, access to such information was extremely limited.
The law took effect Jan. 1. The next day, the California Supreme Court rejected the San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies union's challenge to the law on the grounds that it shouldn't apply retroactively to cases that happened before Jan. 1. More such legal claims are expected, but it's plain that lawmakers intended the law to apply to past incidents.
Police unions--and many chiefs and sheriffs--have fought transparency for so long that it may just feel like a natural and automatic response. But in an era in which cellphone videos have documented so much police misconduct, this reflexive opposition to openness isn't a good look. It demands the question: What do they have to hide?
Yes, policing is very difficult, complicated and demanding work. But law enforcement officers still must be held accountable for bad conduct.
Editorial on 01/09/2019
Print Headline: Others say: Cops should be accountable