Two New California Laws Aim to Improve Law Enforcement Transparency

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SACRAMENTO -- Two new laws that will take effect in the new year are aimed at making California's law enforcement more accountable, especially when it comes to police shootings.

Dashcam and body camera videos are widely considered the best tools for investigating law enforcement shootings. Starting this year the public may see a lot more of them.

"Anybody who’s doing the right thing should not be fearful when it comes to transparency," said civil rights attorney Mark Harris.

Two new laws going into effect in 2019 aim to put California ahead of the nation on law enforcement transparency.

One of those laws, Assembly Bill 748, will require all video showing officer shootings be released on demand within 45 days of the incident. It goes into effect July 1.

Harris says, ultimately, that makes the public safer.

"Cameras and audio recording devices tend to make people more careful in how they conduct themselves," he told FOX40. "That’s what we want to see relative to law enforcement."

Harris has worked with the families of Joseph Mann and Dazion Flenaugh, both killed at the hands of officers. He said the public has a right to see how its officers conduct themselves.

But many within law enforcement communities think the new rules go too far.

"It causes people who do not have the totality of the information to reach conclusions that become highly problematic," said former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness.

McGinness told FOX40 the public often sees just a few seconds of a police shooting, putting it out of context.

He doesn’t believe departments should be forced to release videos, especially if they’ll be used later in front of a jury.

"To set this arbitrary date of 45 days is very, very short-sighted. It’s flawed logic," he said.

In Sacramento, the police department already releases shooting videos within 30 days.

But if the purpose is to appease the public, releasing videos did not stop protests in Sacramento following the high profile Stephon Clark shooting.

"We definitely have some challenges," said Sacramento Police Sgt. Vance Chandler. "A lot of the material is not very easy to watch."

Chandler believes the policy is working to build trust with the community.

"Any time there’s change there’s always some challenges," Chandler said. "But I also think it showed our commitment to transparency."

Still, there are those like Harris who say law enforcement statewide has a long way to go to earn their communities’ trust. He calls the new laws a good first step.

The second bill has to do with police records involving officer-involved shooting investigations having to be made public. That law went into effect Tuesday.

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