In Los Angeles and New York City, law enforcement agencies continue to oppose efforts to investigate the wrongdoings of individual officials by holding back body camera shots and ignoring media requests from public records.
In the midst of a massive nationwide drive for more police responsibility and fewer police officers on the city's payroll, Gothamist reports that the New York Police Department (NYPD) does not provide body camera footage (CCRB) requested by the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Last November, the NYPD agreed to provide CCRB, the only law enforcement agency in New York City, with footage of police officers authorized to investigate allegations of police misconduct made by members of the public.
By the end of June, Gothamist reports, the CCRB had received no responses to more than 1,100 requests for body camera footage. At least 40 percent of the requests were older than 90 days. The agreement between the CCRB and NYPD states that the board will receive the footage within 25 days of an inquiry.
Since the NYPD is not doing its job, the CCRB investigators cannot do their job. The gothamist reported the contents of a memo from two leaders of the CCRB's investigative department, which was sent to the top officials, and warned that the situation was unsustainable: "The struggle for access to (body-worn cameras) is the struggle for Future of Civilian Supervision In an age of justifiably increased police accountability control, we urge the agency to use this moment to do everything in its power to gain direct access to BWC footage. "The memo goes So far to say that police supervision under this new regime of body-worn cameras has actually deteriorated because the CCRB is unable to obtain footage for timely investigation.
Gothamist's report also notes that police unions have contributed to the backlog. The agreement states that the NYPD may withhold footage from cases in which officials kill or seriously injure someone until the NYPD has completed its own investigation. Officials are also allowed to check their body cameras before the CCRB interviews them. Before June, police unions refused to allow officials to be remotely admitted as a COVID-19 survey.
On the other coast, changes to California public record law introduced in 2019 should make police misconduct records available to the public and the media. Before 2019, state law exempted police personnel records from requests for public records.
Law enforcement agencies across the state, however, have been looking for ways to resist the new policy and have attempted (unsuccessfully) to argue that the law is not retroactive and does not apply to records created prior to the law's adoption. Some cities even went on record hunts.
The Los Angeles Times has requested disciplinary records from the Los Angeles Sheriff & # 39; s Department (LASD) for hundreds of MPs. The paper requested records for 325 MPs – especially since the department would not work with records that did not contain names. The paper has since received records for exactly two officers.
Last week, The Times filed a lawsuit at the California Supreme Court in Los Angeles to force the LASD to deliver these records. According to its reporting, the LASD not only refuses to provide proxy records of misconduct. The department also withholds information about people who died in Los Angeles prisons and about Sheriff Alex Villanueva's daily routine.
Villanueva made the delay on personnel issues and lack of funds to comply with S.B. 1421, the law requiring California law enforcement officials to publish police misconduct records.
That more than a year after lawmakers urged law enforcement officials to open their filing cabinets is still impossible to get public records in California is not a good sign of New York police transparency, which passed its own laws in June reformed for police records.
Even if the law requires records to be released, law enforcement agencies can almost refuse to comply. If the NYPD's backlog of body cameras is an indication, the New York police can continue to avoid the disinfectant power of sunlight.