New police transparency law addresses misconduct issues

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SAN DIEGO – Police departments across San Diego County took a step toward being more transparent. As of Monday, reports involving use of force can be made public.

Attorney Dwight Ritter said the change involves police officers being investigated for use of force, committing sexual assault or lying during investigations.

“I think that’s a very important change,” said Ritter, who has been practicing law in the county for 30 years. In the past, the records for officers being investigated weren’t available to the public.

“Some of the police officers that have problems have a lot of repetitive problems,” Ritter said. “They have a habit of ongoing problems and it’s good for departments to recognize that.”

Senate Bill 1421 changed that when it passed and went into effect January 1.

There was a debate whether or not the change applied to only cases moving forward or cases in the past as well. Eight departments sued to prevent past cases be applicable, and a San Diego judge granted a month extension for them to file an official appeal. It appears the window has come and gone without any appeal filed.

“I don’t think they’re going to be immediately available, and I think the government agencies will take some period of time to answer requests for records whenever those requests come in,” Ritter said.

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