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Merced peace officers unions dropping misconduct records lawsuit, attorney says

Judge orders Fresno sheriff to withhold records on police shooting cases

A Fresno, CA Superior Court Judge ordered Fresno County to withhold any sheriff’s office records related to misconduct or officer-involved shootings before Jan. 1, 2019 under SB 1421, a new police transparency law.
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A Fresno, CA Superior Court Judge ordered Fresno County to withhold any sheriff’s office records related to misconduct or officer-involved shootings before Jan. 1, 2019 under SB 1421, a new police transparency law.

About six weeks after filing for a mandate to withhold records of peace officer misconduct, Merced County unions are backing out, according to the attorney who represents both unions.

Both the Merced County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and Merced Police Officers Association filed for the mandate from the court, which was granted in March by Judge Brian McCabe.

The stay allowed law enforcement agencies and cities to withhold records while attorneys debate the merit of making the records public. A new law, Senate Bill 1421, opened up public access for records on officers who committed sexual assault or acted dishonestly on the job, as well as records related to the use of force.

The police union has already dismissed its lawsuit, attorney Monique Alonso said on Monday. She said the deputies union would file this week for dismissal.

Neither union contested that law enforcement agencies should fully comply with eligible requests for records, Alonso said in a statement.

“Our concern in filing the lawsuits regarding the scope of SB 1421 was strictly limited to protecting the privacy rights of officers for records created prior to the effective date of SB 1421 due to legitimate question about whether the statute eliminated those rights,” she said in the statement. “Some months after the Jan. 1 implementation of SB 1421, several courts statewide have now spoken as to how the statute should be interpreted and have signaled that these records must be produced, and we will respect those decisions.”

Agencies around the state have reacted differently to the new law. Some complied while others argued the legislation does not cover records from before SB 1421 became law on Jan. 1.

Media agencies and advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have filed lawsuits when law enforcement agencies refused to release records from before this year.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has argued SB 1421 is clear on what should be made available to the public.

“We’re pleased that the unions have decided to dismiss these cases,” ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Sean Riordan said by email. “The public should now have access to the critical issues of police use of force and police misconduct that the law was designed to promote.”

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