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Judge Rules San Diego Police Misconduct Records Should Be Released

A San Diego police car parked in downtown San Diego, Oct. 24, 2018.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: A San Diego police car parked in downtown San Diego, Oct. 24, 2018.

The public should be allowed to see past records of police shootings, use of force and sexual assault, a judge ruled Friday, but the records won't immediately be released.

A new state law, SB 1421, states that the public can request to see police records of officers investigated for police shootings and use of force, and who were found to have committed sexual assault or lied during the course of an investigation. But eight local police unions sued, saying the law does not clearly state that it applies to past records. They argued only records in the future should be released.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon ruled against that argument, saying the law should also apply retroactively. But he put a hold on releasing the records until March 29, giving the unions time to appeal.

Richard Pinckard, the attorney representing the police unions, said he isn't sure yet whether they will appeal.

He said the suit was "something we had to bring forward" on behalf of his clients because they believe some police records should be kept private.

"The decision is the decision, this is our legal process and we respect the process," he said.

David Loy, the legal director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, made an argument during the hearing that the records should be made public. He said the judge's ruling upholds a landmark state law.

"For decades California had the most secretive and restrictive laws in the country on police conduct and misconduct," he said. "You cannot get almost any of these records through a public records request."

KPBS and several local media organizations also filed a brief in the case, arguing the records should be made public.

RELATED: KPBS, News Outlets Inch Forward In Fight For Police Misconduct Records

After the new law went into effect, KPBS filed records requests with local law enforcement agencies asking to see internal investigations back through 2014. Judge Sturgeon had temporarily blocked the agencies involved in the lawsuit—San Diego, Carlsbad, Coronado, El Cajon, National City, Oceanside, San Diego Unified and the Harbor Police—from releasing the records until the hearing Friday.

KPBS has begun to receive records from agencies not involved in the lawsuit, including the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the Chula Vista Police Department.

RELATED: San Diego Sheriff Releases Reports About Deputies Accused Of Sexual Assault

Prior to the lawsuit, Carlsbad and Coronado said they had no records to release.

The public should be allowed to see past records of police shootings, use of force and sexual assault, a judge ruled Friday, but the records won't immediately be released.

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