The people of California will now have more insight into how their local law enforcement agencies operate. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed S.B. 978, which requires local police departments to publish their “training, policies, practices, and operating procedures” on their websites starting in January 2020. That opens up access to this information to anyone, not only journalists or activists with the time, money, or knowledge to request them.
S.B. 978, introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford, has long had EFF’s support because it helps inform everyone about how police officers are trained. Law enforcement agencies are adopting new policies about new policing technologies all the time, and the community benefits from understanding them. Newer surveillance technologies such as body-worn cameras, biometric scanners, drones, and automatic license plate readers have drawn significant public interest and concern.
Posting policies and procedures online ensures that law enforcement agencies are more transparent about what they’re doing. Doing so also helps educate the public about what to expect and how to behave during police encounters.
EFF asked you for your support in getting this simple transparency measure passed, in addition to sending our own letter to the governor. Governor Brown in 2017 vetoed a similar bill, which we also supported along with many civil liberties advocates and law enforcement associations. S.B. 978 was narrowed at the governor’s request, and your support helped it pass.
We applaud Governor Brown for signing this bill and improving the transparency and accountability between law enforcement agencies and all Californians. Good relationships are built on trust and communication. Making it possible for everyone to see and understand the policies underpinning police procedure leads to greater understanding and better relations.