SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Several law enforcement leaders from the South Bay met with community members Tuesday night to listen to frustrations and answer questions about a new law that was meant to give the public access to police records that have been historically inaccessible.
SB 1421, which went into effect January 1st, gives the public the right to request records related to police use of force or other misconduct. Rosie Chavez said the new law gave her hope she’d finally get answers surrounding the fatal shooting of her nephew a year and a half ago.
Instead, she said she has been disappointed.
“Why can’t we get the answers, why can’t they release the records?” asked Chavez.
Jacob Dominguez was shot and killed by San Jose police officers when they said the fugitive gang member ignored commands to put his hands up, then dropped them out of view.
The body-worn camera footage was released by the Santa Clara County District Attorney last week, who also ruled the officer who shot Dominguez was lawful in his decision to pull the trigger.
Chavez said under the law, she has a right to know who fired the shots, as well as the officer’s record with San Jose police.
“If there was any disciplinary action, if they’ve had any past records of misconduct or anything like that,” she said.
She was among several community members who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, which was organized by the grassroots organization People Acting in Community Together.
“Police unions have been filing lawsuits against 1421 in hoping to block people from getting records,” said P.A.C.T. leader Derrick Sanderlin.
Since the law went into effect, several agencies across the state have fought to comply with the law. Some agencies have said they will comply, but that they won’t release records before the law went into effect.
Despite the controversy, several South Bay agencies showed up to participate in the dialogue with community members and P.A.C.T., including chiefs from Morgan Hill, Campbell and Sunnyvale, as well as the Santa Clara County Sheriff. The assistant chiefs for Santa Clara Police and San Jose Police Departments were also in attendance.
“1421 has value and it will show that, we, as a law enforcement profession, are doing a good job of policing our own, holding our officers accountable who need to be held accountable,” said Morgan Hill Police Chief David Swing.
Chavez said if she ever gets her hands on the documents in her nephew’s case, she may not even read them. But she believes she has every right to know how the 33-year-old spent the last moments of his life.
“The answers might not get what we want, but it’s something that’s related to his case and we want it,” she said.