by Annie Banks
Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1421, a major reform bill that will give the public access to internal police investigations for the first time in California. Impacted families, community members, and several of the Justice Teams Network anchor organizations across the state worked tirelessly to ensure the passage of the bill. We are encouraged to see California join other states that have taken a significant step towards ensuring public access to police investigative files.
SB 1421, introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner, ensures police officer misconduct records, videos of police shootings, and other incidents be made available to the public. Unlike almost any other state, California has ensured near total secrecy for the police, preventing effective prosecution and public awareness of officer crimes and abuses. The passage of SB 1421 means that excessive use of force and sexual misconduct cases in particular can no longer be swept under the rug by police departments across the state.
“For victims and families of police violence, the odds have long been stacked against us,” said Theresa Smith, Founder and Executive Director for Law Enforcement Accountability Network. “With SB 1421, California will empower local communities and families seeking accountability. We commend the Governor for signing SB 1421 into law.”
This victory would have been impossible without our anchor members and the families who led this effort. Families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police have increasingly joined together in calling for state-level reforms to cop-friendly laws like the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights. Several JTN Member organizations were involved in advocacy for SB 1421: the Law Enforcement Accountability Network (Anaheim), Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter Sacramento, Dignity & Power Now (Los Angeles), and the Anti Police-Terror Project (Oakland). SB 1421 was supported by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter California, California Faculty Association, California News Publishers Association, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PICO California, PolicyLink, and Youth Justice Coalition LA.
The passage of SB 1421 represents a significant victory in the dismantling of a complicated web of laws that prevent real accountability and transparency in how our communities are policed. While public safety in the US needs a complete and radical transformation in definition and practice, we support radical reforms like SB 1421 that provide relief in real time for Black and Brown communities across California. For more info: httpss://justiceteams.org

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