By Tim Yaryan, Matt Siverling and John Lovell
Yaryan, Siverling and Lovell, Legislative Advocates
March 12, 2018
Brothers and Sisters,
In each Legislative session there are a number of bills that may do irreparable harm to the law enforcement profession. This year is no exception and one of those bills is Senate Bill 1421 by Senator Nancy Skinner. Now, if you look the bill up, you will not find any language that we can point to; that’s because SB 1421 is a so-called “spot” bill. In other words, the actual language of the bill has yet to be inserted.
For the last several weeks, however, the Capitol has been rife with rumors about the ultimate contents of the bill – one which will compromise the fundamental integrity of a probation officer’s personnel records.
Today, Local 685 was able to access an advanced copy of the bill – which is still not officially in print – and the results are uniformly bad.
Senate Bill 1421 will weaken the provisions of the Public Records Act that currently protect the privacy and integrity of an officer’s personnel record.
Here’s what SB 1421 proposes to do:
1.A record related to the investigation or assessment of any of the following: a.An incident involving a discharge of a firearm at a person by a peace officer or a custodial officer – please note that the officer’s information will be released even when the officer’s use of his/her firearm is entirely within in policy. b.Use of a taser, whether or not the use is within policy c.A strike with an impact weapon or a projectile to a person’s head or neck even where such an impact is within agency policy. 2.The record that shall be released under this provision will include the allegations, the agency’s full investigation file, any evidence considered, any analysis of the evidence or conduct, any findings or recommended findings.
Put simply, probation work that is within policy will now be deemed to be no longer be confidential and will be available for public inspection pursuant to the Public Records Act. We’re not making this up. A probation officer performing his or her sworn duty, in conformance with all training, all rules and policies of the agency, all relevant legal provisions, will still have the record of his or her performance of their duties open and available to the public.
This bill is a shocking departure of the tradition of confidentiality of peace officer records, certainly of peace officer records entirely within policy. This bill will be in print in the very near future, and we are going to be called upon bring all of our energies to bear to combat SB 1421.
This is not the first time we have encountered an attack on personnel files and maintaining privacy between your professional and personal life. We have prevailed in past years by joining forces with our fellow law enforcement labor unions and management associations to communicate the issues to the State Legislature. We have also called upon our brothers and sister in labor to assist with the lobbying and public relations efforts to present a unified front as “employees” and holding firm on maintaining strong privacy protections for information between employers and employees.
This effort will be no different, and we will enlist our best and brightest to communicate with policy makers that this is a critical issue for peace officers; for recruitment, for morale, and for retention of our employees. If you have acted within policy in your professional capacity, you should not be subject to further “trial by public.”
Until next time, STAY SAFE!