AS OF JANUARY 1, 2020, EVERY LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY IS REQUIRED TO CONSPICUOUSLY POST ON THEIR WEBSITES ALL CURRENT STANDARDS, POLICIES, PRACTICES, OPERATING PROCEDURES, AND EDUCATION AND TRAINING MATERIALS THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE PUBLICLY AVAILABLE UPON A CPRA REQUEST

Provided by CPOA Legal Counsel, James R. Touchstone, Jones & Mayer

In October 2018, then Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 978 (SB 978) into law.  Effective January 1, 2020, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and each local law enforcement agency are required to “conspicuously post” on their Internet Web sites “all current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures, and education and training materials that would otherwise be available to the public” if a request was made pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA).[1]  SB 978 specifies that by imposing this requirement on local law enforcement agencies, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program; therefore, resulting costs to agencies are reimbursable from the state.

According to the Legislature, the goals of SB 978 law are to help educate the public about such information by making it easily accessible, to increase communication and community trust, enhance transparency, and to save costs and labor by reducing the quantity of individual CPRA requests for information that is available and easily accessible online.

Background

Existing law establishes POST within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and requires the commission to adopt rules establishing minimum standards regarding the recruitment and training of peace officers.  The CPRA generally requires each state and local agency to make its public records available for inspection by a member of the public, unless the public record is specifically exempted from disclosure.  The CPRA also requires every state and local agency to duplicate disclosable public records, either on paper or in an electronic format, if so requested by a member of the public and he or she has paid certain costs of the duplication.  SB 978 imposes new requirements on POST and state law enforcement agencies.

SB 978 Specifics

In Section 1 of SB 978, the Legislature makes certain findings and declarations, as follows:

(a) Law enforcement agencies, including the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and local law enforcement agencies, establish standards of physical, mental, and moral fitness for peace officers, develop and implement programs to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement by peace officers, and provide ongoing education and training for peace officers.

(b) Law enforcement agencies have numerous sets of regulations, including, but not limited to, educational materials, manuals, policies, practices, and procedures, that guide employees in their duties.  Regulations should be based on best policing policies and practices, current legal standards, and community safety needs.

(c) Currently, across California and the country, many local law enforcement agencies conspicuously post their training, policies, practices, and operating procedures on their Internet Web sites.

(d) Making regulations of law enforcement agencies easily accessible to the public helps educate the public about law enforcement policies, practices, and procedures, increases communication and community trust, and enhances transparency, while saving costs and labor associated with responding to individual requests for this information.

Section 2 adds Section 13650 to the California Penal Code, which provides:

“Commencing January 1, 2020, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and each local law enforcement agency shall conspicuously post on their Internet Web sites all current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures, and education and training materials that would otherwise be available to the public if a request was made pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government Code).”

HOW THIS AFFECTS YOUR AGENCY

For those agencies who already post such information to their websites, we suggest a thorough review to ensure such information is “conspicuously” posted and accessible.  It is also important to ensure that such information is complete and up-to-date and kept so on an ongoing basis.  The law requires ALL CURRENT standards, policies, practices, operating procedures and education and training materials that a valid CPRA request could require.

It is important to note that only policies, practices, operating procedures, training materials that have historically been subject to production in response to a CPRA request must be posted.  Accordingly, agencies should ensure careful review of such materials to determine whether an applicable exemption might apply, such as Government Code section 6254(f), 6255, Evidence Code section 1040, etc.  Agencies should also consider redaction and or refraining to post materials that would compromise officer safety.

As always, if you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail, please feel free to contact James R. Touchstone at (714) 446–1400 or via email at jrt@jones-mayer.com.

Information on www.jones-mayer.com is for general use and is not legal advice.  The mailing of this Client Alert Memorandum is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client-relationship.

[1] Codified at Government Code section 6250 et seq.