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Certain Peace Officer Records Created Before 2019 Must Be Disclosed In Response To CPRA Requests
On January 1, 2019, Senate Bill 1421 (SB 1421) went into effect, which amended Penal Code section 832.7 to allow disclosure of peace officer records related to officer-involved shootings, serious use of force, and sustained findings of sexual assault or serious dishonesty under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). Previously, these records could only be accessed through a Pitchess motion using the judicial process laid out in Evidence Code sections 1044 and 1045.
Following the passage of SB 1421, the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (Association) sued the County of Ventura (County) and the Sheriff of Ventura County for a court order confirming that Section 832.7 only required disclosure of peace officer records for conduct occurring after January 1, 2019.
While the case was pending in the trial court, the California Court of Appeal’s First District issued an opinion in Walnut Creek Police Officers’ Association v. City of Walnut Creek (Walnut Creek), which held that SB 1421 required the disclosure of peace officer records created prior to January 1, 2019. Despite the Walnut Creek decision, the trial court found for the Association and issued a permanent injunction preventing the County from disclosing peace officer records that were created prior to 2019 in response to CPRA requests.
The County’s Public Defender intervened and appealed to the Court of Appeal’s Second District, alleging the trial court was bound by the Walnut Creek decision. On appeal, the Association argued SB 1421 cannot retroactively divest peace officers of their right to confidentiality in records. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the Association and reversed the trial court’s judgment.
Relying on the Walnut Creek decision, the Court of Appeal found that Section 832.7 adequately safeguards an officer’s right to privacy by only requiring disclosure of records under limited circumstances, including instances of egregious misconduct. The Court of Appeal also found that the Legislature intended SB 1421 to apply to pre-2019 records in accordance with its stated goal of increasing transparency regarding incidents of peace officer misconduct.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in failing to follow Walnut Creek, and held SB 1421 applies retroactively to require the disclosure of responsive records created prior to 2019.
Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association v. County of Ventura, 61 Cal.App.5th 585 (2021).
This case again affirms that SB 1421 applies retroactively to peace officer records created prior to January 1, 2019. LCW attorneys can help agencies comply in full with their CPRA obligations.