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California Senate Bill 1421 Helps Hold Bad Cops Accountable

August 11, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

Of all 50 states, California has enacted perhaps the most
stringent legislative barriers to police accountability. Not only
do state laws protect misconduct findings against officers from the
public, but the law also keeps that information out of the hands of
prosecutors who need to trust the police to ensure justice. A
prosecutor cannot put an officer on the witness stand that she
knows has a history of lying. But if that prosecutor cannot easily
get access to the officer’s disciplinary record, as California law
currently ensures, then she may be relying on bad police
information or, even worse, prosecuting an innocent person on the
word of a dishonest officer. As both a matter of principle and
practicality, the government should do its best to maintain the
honesty and integrity of its police officers.

For police to be effective in their job to protect and serve the
public, they require the trust of the communities they serve.
Without trust, witnesses will not cooperate and provide testimony
to bring criminal perpetrators to justice. Without witness
cooperation, perpetrator apprehension becomes less likely —
negating the greatest deterrent to committing crime — and
thus public safety suffers. When police are not held accountable
for their actions and misconduct against the community, then, the
public suffer twice: first, the community is damaged by the
misconduct itself and second, the community’s security is
compromised by the diminished trust that comes from misbehaving
police who remain on the streets.

Restoring community trust
in police and the justice system writ large will require more
transparency from departments and more accountability for those
officers who have abused their positions.

There is currently a bill before the California Legislature that
would ease the burden for the prosecutors and the public to know
whether the officers in their communities are trustworthy. SB1421
would require police departments to release information about,
inter alia, sustained findings of dishonesty in the course of
criminal cases and other instances of police misconduct. This bill
would also require police departments to release information about
serious uses of force, including officer-involved shootings, to
increase transparency.

Law-and-order conservatives can support SB1421 because it may
restore a level of legitimacy to criminal prosecutions. When
dishonest officers are found out after many years of misconduct,
hundreds or thousands of prosecutions in which they played a role
may be jeopardized because of their misdeeds. The criminal justice
system relies upon honest police officers and shielding the
dishonest among them, as California law currently does, undermines
the integrity and, ultimately, the final disposition of criminal
prosecutions.

Officers who honor the badge and have no history of lying or
other serious misconduct — which, in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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