Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) introduced SB 978, a follow-up to Senate Bill 345 that he authored last year to improve transparency and accountability of local law enforcement agencies across California.
“One of the best indicators of police and community relations is whether or not there is trust between those who live in the community and those who are sworn-in to protect and serve the community,” said Senator Bradford. “Far too often I hear from constituents and Californians statewide that the trust is not always there. SB 978 is a critical step towards building better relations by requiring local law enforcement agencies to post their policies and procedures, which are already public record, to their department’s website.”
Senate Bill 978 differs from last year’s SB 345 as it removes state agencies from being required to post all standards, practices and training materials on their websites. This new tailored version is much more cost effective and less burdensome on state agencies, which may have thousands of documents to upload. SB 978 still requires that local police and sheriff departments post their policies online, including employee rules of conduct, disciplinary protocols, training materials and manuals, law enforcement bulletins, department general orders, and use of force guidelines. Currently, there are over 30 agencies throughout the state that are in compliance, but this bill will create a uniform, statewide mandate that will save time and money so agencies, community members and attorneys are not forced to go through the public records request process.
“Providing seamless access to these public records allows members of the public to review policies and procedures that affect their encounters with local police,” said Attorney Susan Leff, Board Member of the California Public Defenders Association who are sponsors of SB 978. “Additionally, online access permits each law enforcement agency to display its own innovative policies in areas such as crowd control, prohibition against biased policing and language access.”
“Not only does the public have a right to know whether officers and sheriffs are abiding by their own rules, but this also helps law enforcement prove they are transparent, following their own directives, and open to dialogue and public feedback.”