Police officer misconduct hearings, disciplinary hearings, Board of
Rights hearings (as the LAPD calls them), were forever open to the
public. Forever ended in 2006.
That's when a court decision in San Diego called "Copley Press Inc v. Superior Court of San Diego" changed the rules of the game -- at least as interpreted by Citys' Attorneys offices pretty much statewide. The result was that all hearings were closed.
Copley is a complicated court case, and some say it's a ‘technicality'' that resulted in this ruling on officers rights to privacy being interpreted this way. But bottom line is it gave police the ability to shut out the public from the disciplinary process based on the need to protect officers privacy. Now they can simply say, ‘hey we're following state law'' … and it ends there.
In 2007, former California Legislator Gloria Romero introduced a new bill, Senate bill 1019 , that would've reversed Copley and made the hearings open to the public once again. She was demonized by the LA Police Protective League, which is their fancy name for their union. And it never made it to a vote. She thinks that's a mistake and so do a lot of other people.
At the time it was supported by then LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and Mayor Villaraigosa -- who's been pretty quiet on this whole controversy since he announced the million dollar reward for Chris Dorner before he died his fiery death.
At any rate, here we are at Fox 11 really hitting this issue hard and re-examining the controversy over whether the Board of Rights should be private still or reopened to the public again like the good old days.
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is taking up Romero's cause to some degree, with a new bill to give the public more info -- but he's wary of police union opposition too no doubt.
Here's the deal: no one wants a cops personal private information, their home address, their Social Security number, their hair stylists name, how many times they go bowling each week, and so on. What Romero and others are simply saying is 'hey, you talk about the importance of trust and confidence in the police from the public so if there's a hearing on discipline open it up to anyone who wants to come. If the officer is found guilty, we know about it and we can judge the process for ourselves since we were there' (we probably being the press).
If he's found guilty -- the same thing. The union says ‘'officers take enough risks they don't want their personnel files to be added to that ... it misses the point and really doen't make sense. We don't want their personnel files per se ... and there's a fairly good precedent or example which illustrates what we're talking about ... it's called, uh, let's see, the court system? You know, in those big fancy buildings where they have those things called ‘'trials'' that are all open to the public regardless of who's on trial
"So police are apparently special because they want their own 'internal' trials to be secret so that what someone's good name is not tainted by an unfair allegation that is then publicized and God forbid, say the LA Times writes and article about it? But if there's an unfair allegation and it's laid out in open and the officer is exonerated then good. He has his good name back and we don't have any more Chris Dorner's out there who can claim they were treated unfairly and then start killing people because his unresolved rage made him snap."