If we as citizens are more informed of police policies and procedures, and we can easily access those materials online and study them, it’ll lead to greater accountability and better relations between our communities and the police departments that serve us. EFF supports a bill in the California legislature which aims to do exactly that.
S.B. 978, introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford, will require law enforcement agencies to post online their current standards, practices, policies, operating procedures, and education and training materials. As we say in our letter of support:
[The bill] will help address the increased public interest and concern about police policies in recent years, including around the issues of use of force, less-lethal weapons, body-worn cameras, anti-bias training, biometric identification and collection, and surveillance (such as social media analysis, automated license plate recognition, cell-site simulators, and drones).
Additionally, policies governing police activities should be readily available for review and scrutiny by the public, policymakers, and advocacy groups. Not only will this transparency measure result in well-informed policy decisions, but it will also provide the public with a clearer understanding of what to expect and how to behave during police encounters.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a previous version of this bill, which had broad support from both civil liberties groups and law enforcement associations. The new bill is meant to address his concerns of the bill’s scope, and removes a few of the state law enforcement agencies from the law’s purview, like the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and California Highway Patrol, among others.
We hope that the legislature will once again pass this important bill, and that Gov. Brown will support transparency and accountability between law enforcement and Californians.