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LA County Sheriff Says He’ll Disclose Names of Officers Who Shoot People

Courthouse News, May 19, 2021. https://www.courthousenews.com/la-county-sherif...

The department will release the names of 95 officers who shot people and whose identities have not been previously disclosed.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will adopt a policy of releasing the names of officers who shoot people within 30 days of the incident, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Wednesday.

Villanueva has said previously he would release names of officers only after the LA County District Attorney’s office completed their review of police shootings.

The change in policy — which comes with the imminent release of 95 names of officers not previously disclosed — reverses his prior stance on the issue. 

The sheriff said the 30-day window will allow the department to determine whether any credible threats exist against the named deputies. 

“The idea is we want to be as transparent as we can but we can’t jeopardize ongoing investigations and we can’t create a threat to someone,” Villanueva said during an event streamed on Instagram.

The move comes after LA County Supervisors voted this week to draft an ordinance requiring the department to post non-confidential police records within 30 days of a request.

The ordinance would require the department to release the names of officers who’ve shot people by publishing them within 48 hours of the shooting. 

Villanueva’s decision also comes after the LA Times reported that the department regularly denies records requests or delays its response to them, unlike other large law enforcement agencies in the state.

The Los Angeles Police Department, meanwhile, disclosed names of officers in the 88 shootings that occurred between 2018 and 2020, the LA Times found.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department Inspector General said in a recent report more than 70% of public records requests as of January 2020 were still pending 180 days after they were submitted. Last summer, the department had more than 2,700 overdue requests, the report said.

The department has begun to post disciplinary and administrative records on its website but the archive is limited and the database doesn’t allow for searches based on individual deputies or events.

The California Supreme Court held in a 2014 case involving the Long Beach Police Department that there’s significant public interest in the timely release of names of officers who shoot people. 

California Senate Bill 1421 requires release of records on police shootings, excessive uses of force and confirmed cases of lying and sexual assault by on-duty officers.

This year, California lawmakers will review Senate Bill 16, proposed legislation that would bolster public access to records and impose civil fines of up to $1,000 per day on agencies who delay responses to records requests. 

After being elected, Villanueva said he supported public disclosure of police misconduct records and specifically backed SB 1421.

The law enforcement leader has since faced lawsuits and subpoenas from a sheriff’s department oversight board for refusing to disclose information on conditions inside county jails during the Covid-19 pandemic and information on internal deputy gangs. 

In April, a law enforcement and prison watchdog group sued the department alleging a pattern of unlawful restricting of public access to misconduct claims and lawsuits against the agency.

The Human Rights Defense Center said in its complaint the department is refusing to grant public access to at least 1,000 claims and lawsuits alleging misconduct ranging from wrongful deaths, excessive force and sexual assaults by police officers and other department agents.

Settlements and adjudication of the claims against the sheriff’s department has cost taxpayers at least $550 million between 2012 and 2020.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the department cannot block Kobe Bryant’s widow from accessing names of four deputies accused of sharing photos from the helicopter crash where the NBA legend, his daughter and seven others died.

 

 

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