San Diego

Judge Rules Public Should See Police Discipline Records

On Friday, a San Diego judge ruled that a new state requiring public disclosure of police discipline records applies to incidents that happened before the law took effect.

Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon said eight local police departments must release information about officer misconduct and use of force investigations. 

The new state law, Senate Bill 1421, took effect January 1, 2019. It requires law enforcement agencies to release the details about serious wrongdoing by officers and the findings of some internal investigations. 

But last month labor unions representing San Diego, Carlsbad and Coronado police officers, the Harbor police, and the San Diego Unified School District police asked a judge to halt the release details of any officer discipline that happened before the law took effect. 

Six local media outlets, including NBC 7, joined the ACLU as parties to the case. The media outlets and the ACLU argued that the law gives the public the right to see those past discipline reports. 

“I think this is a victory for the people's right to know,” said David Loy, Legal Director for the ACLU in San Diego. “The public has a compelling interest to know records of police conduct.” 

At the heart of the argument was whether the law applies to investigations and findings completed before the law took effect. 

On Friday, the judge ruled that SB 1421 applies to all police discipline and use of force investigations, including those that took place before January 2019. 

But an attorney for the police officers disputed that finding. 

“I don't agree that certain discipline records should be made public,” said Rick Pinckard, the attorney representing the eight police officer unions. 

Pinckard did not say whether the police unions will appeal Judge Sturgeon’s ruling. 

If a higher court does not halt the release of those documents, they could be made public as early as March 29. 

NBC 7 Investigates is tracking how every law enforcement agency in San Diego County is responding to the new law. To read more, click here.

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