BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) — A Bay Area police officer was fired last year after telling a woman he’d help her with her drunk driving charge if she agreed to have sex with him, according to information just brought to light by a new transparency law.
The law that went into effect January 1 gives the public access to law enforcement personnel files. State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) authored the bill.
“Well, it’s been 40 years that California’s had a complete ban on public access to any records related to law enforcement,” said Skinner. “So really, the purpose of the law is to assist law enforcement and to help build the trust between our law enforcement agencies and communities.”
Days after the law went into effect, the San Jose Mercury News along with several other news groups obtained records from the Burlingame Police Department.
The documents showed department brass fired a veteran officer last year after he offered to help a woman charged with DUI if she had sex with him.
Records showed the officer had made a similar proposal to two other women.
The firing likely would have been kept quiet had it not been for the new law.
But the bill does more than just give the public access to personnel records of officers disciplined for dishonesty and or sexual misconduct.
This is a milestone. This is a huge step,” said retired superior court judge LaDoris Cordell. “Then the bill also says if there’s any incident in which an officer discharges a firearm or uses force that causes death or great bodily injury. Then through the California Public Records Act, you can get information about that entire incident.”
But Skinner says agencies are already challenging the law.
The California Supreme Court just denied the San Bernandino Sheriff’s office attempt to fight the law.
The Inglewood Police Department decided to shred old records before the law went into effect.
“Inglewood, I would ask them, what are they trying to hide? Do they have something to hide?” wondered Skinner.
“This was absolutely inappropriate. And my concern is whether or not other police departments quietly have done the same thing. If they have, shame on them. And that information needs to be exposed.”
It is important to note that, by law, police departments are not required keep records past five years.
KPIX 5 attempted to contact the Burlingame police chief, but officials said he had left for the day and could not do an interview.