SFPOA drops lawsuit seeking to block release of officer personnel records

SFPOA drops lawsuit seeking to block release of officer personnel records

San Francisco’s police union on Friday dropped a lawsuit seeking to block the release of police discipline records in cases involving shootings, deaths and serious misconduct.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association filed suit last month seeking a court order directing The City and its agencies to “refrain from enforcing or taking any steps to enforce” Senate Bill 1421, a state law that took effect Jan. 1, “with respect to records created prior to” that date.

SB 1421, introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, makes public previously confidential personnel records on misconduct including police shootings, excessive use of force incidents resulting in death or serious injury, confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying by officers.

However police unions throughout the state have filed legal challenges to the law, arguing that it should not apply retroactively to records dating before it took effect.

After the lawsuit was filed a stay was imposed prohibiting the police department from releasing records. However that stay was lifted on Friday after the union moved to drop its case.

“We believe all police agencies should fully comply with the eligible requests for records,” the union said in a statement. “Our concern was strictly limited to protecting the privacy rights of officers for records created prior to the effective date of SB 1421. The District Court of Appeal for San Francisco is addressing the issue in a different case and we will respect that decision.”

“The reality is that any officer with a sustained complaint of sexual assault, or lying in an official capacity, has likely been removed from the San Francisco Police Department due to its robust discipline process. Rightly so,” the union said. “Rightly so. Additionally, our department and the San Francisco Police Commission publicly release information on critical incidents and serious uses of force on a regular basis. None of this will change as a result of SB 1421.”

The order to vacate the stay issued by Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman means that police are now authorized to release all records in question regardless of when they were created.

“We’re happy to see the records released so we can get answers for our families,” Kathleen Guneratne, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, said in a statement. “It’s time for police unions to stop filing frivolous lawsuits and let the law take effect.”

Also on Friday, an appeals court in California ruled that six Contra Costa County agencies must release police conduct records created before the start of the year, if requested.

Those six agencies had also sued to block the release of records created before Jan. 1. Absent a ruling by the California Supreme Court, the ruling Friday night is final, Guneratne said.

“In our opinion, we welcome it because it really answers a call we have raised for clarity for other trial courts across the state,” Guneratne said.

San Francisco Police Department officials said they have a backlog of public records requests right now because many of those received since SB 1421 took effect were “extremely voluminous,” but that they expect to begin releasing records shortly .

“The San Francisco Police Department has made extensive efforts to increase transparency and trust with the communities we serve and will continue these efforts under the provisions of SB 1421,” department spokesman Officer Robert Rueca said in a statement.

City Attorney’s Office spokesman John Cote said in a statement that Skinner has “stated clearly that this law was intended to open up all responsive records – from the past and future alike. There’s nothing in this law that limits it only to future records.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to indicate that the SFPOA moved to drop its lawsuit prior to the judge’s order to vacate the stay and not after, as was indicated in a previous story.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

CrimePolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

San Jose Sharks (pictured Feb. 15, 2020 vs. Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center) open the season on Monday against the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis. (Tribune News Service archive)
This week in Bay Area sports

A look at the upcoming major Bay Area sports events (schedules subject… Continue reading

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

Most Read