Sen. Nancy Skinner had her landmark bill, SB 1421, passed in August 2018. SB 1421 required agencies to make public information available about officers who shoot, kill, or engage in serious misconduct like falsifying evidence or committing sexual assault while on the job. The city of Inglewood made the news, in late December 2018, when they promptly destroyed all records that would have otherwise been released starting in January 2019.
I can think of no other county in California more in need of increased law enforcement transparency than L.A. County. But in the 10 months since SB 1421 went into effect, it appears that the L.A. DA’s office has continued the insidious practice of prosecuting cases that have — sometimes unknowingly — hinged upon the testimony of law enforcement officers with histories of misconduct, including dishonesty and sexual violence. Despite Lacey’s recent statement that she recognizes her “responsibility under SB 1421 and is proactively working with law enforcement” to obtain police misconduct files, she has already shown an unwillingness to keep bad cops off the witness stand. In July, 20 community groups came together to urge Lacey to create a “Do Not Call List,” which would require prosecutors in her office to decline cases that rely on statements from officers with documented histories of misconduct, dishonesty, racism, or bias. Lacey ignored their request.
Lacey’s office has already had nearly a year to act under SB 1421 to ensure that her office is aware of the sort of police misconduct that can lead to wrongful convictions or otherwise tainted criminal cases. Given a chance to show a sense of urgency now, she has instead offered up vague platitudes. While it would be nice to believe that the LA DA’s office and police departments are working cooperatively to resolve this issue, neither Lacey nor the police agencies that ultimately control these misconduct records have shown any interest in furthering transparency. This failure of accountability is crippling public trust in law enforcement in Los Angeles. Until we see concrete evidence that Lacey is committed to actively implementing SB1421 in order to restore integrity to the legal system, we will assume that she is instead choosing once again to turn her back on the people she is supposed to represent.Summer Lacey, Senior Legal Counsel at The Justice Collaborative