SACRAMENTO (AP) — A nonprofit organization that advocates for free speech sued California’s attorney general Thursday over his refusal to release police misconduct records.
The First Amendment Coalition filed suit against Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleging the chief law enforcement officer is breaking a state law that took effect Jan. 1.
Becerra, like some other law enforcement officials, is balking at providing records involving police misconduct that occurred before the law took effect.
He and others say they are awaiting a clear judicial decision on whether the law is retroactive.
The California Supreme Court last month denied a last-minute challenge to the law, which eases some of the nation’s most secretive police privacy policies.
Lower courts have ruled both ways in recent weeks. The First Amendment Coalition and several media organizations won a battle last week in Contra Costa County Superior Court, when a judge denied a preliminary injunction sought by police unions.
Similar efforts are underway in several other counties, including Los Angeles.
“Given the ongoing proceedings, at this time, we are prepared to disclose only records beginning January 1, 2019,” Becerra said in a statement. “When it comes to disclosing a person’s private information, you don’t get a second chance to get it right.”
He earlier warned agencies to retain the records.
The new law was passed in response to national distress over a series of fatal police shootings of unarmed minority men, but it applies only when officers are found to have improperly used force or discharged firearms, committed sexual assaults on the job, or have been dishonest in official duties.
By denying public access to the files, Becerra “has given a green light to other departments to disregard the new law,” coalition executive director David Snyder said in a statement.