A judge ordered California’s attorney general to release police misconduct records predating Jan. 1, when new transparency legislation took effect.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. on Friday also rejected arguments by Attorney General Xavier Becerra that his office should not have to release records of local law enforcement.
The legislation was designed to guarantee public access to disciplinary records involving investigations into officer shootings, use-of-force incidents and incidents involving officer misconduct.
The tentative ruling was a win for the First Amendment Coalition and National Public Radio member KQED-FM, which sued Becerra’s office for records under the legislation.
"Judge Ulmer’s order sends the clear message that the Attorney General is not above California law," said David Snyder, the coalition’s executive director.
In response, Becerra’s office said Friday it would release records from before 2019 but only those regarding Department of Justice officers. The office said in a statement that requiring the office to release records involving other departments “would result in duplication of efforts.”
The judge ordered the attorney general’s office to meet with the coalition and KQED to work out the logistics of releasing records.
Ulmer said the 1st District Court of Appeal had already decided that the law is retroactive. He also dismissed the argument that making the attorney general provide records of local law enforcement would be burdensome.
Ulmer said lawmakers could not have been oblivious to the potential cost of carrying out the legislation, and “the people will likely be agnostic as to which tax-funded agency foots the bill.”