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New Public Records Acts Increase Transparency Into Law Enforcement

by | Sep 7, 2021

While Californian’s have maintained a right to access certain public information maintained by state and government agencies, some information has been inaccessible in the past. Two recent California laws, Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748, expand the types of records that law enforcement agencies are required to release in response to public records requests. These changes have led to a significant increase in records requests at all levels of local government.



SB1421 makes records related to certain types of investigation of peace officers subject to public records requests. These include investigations into incidents involving discharge of a firearm at a person by a peace officer, and use of force that resulted in death or great bodily injury among others. SB1421 went into effect January 1st, 2019, and has resulted in a significant uptick in records requests related to this act. 



AB748 makes video and audio recordings of “critical incidents” subject to public records requests. Critical incidents are defined as incidents involving the discharge of a firearm at a person by a peace officer, or where use of force by a peace officer resulted in death or great bodily injury. AB748 went into effect July 1st, 2019. Additional components of the bill can be viewed here. 

Is your agency able to respond to Public Records Requests in a timely, transparent, compliant and repeatable process?

At the heart of a Public Records Request is the trust in the agency’s execution of their records and information management program. Does the agency meet standards, such as the Trusted System requirements outlined in ANSI 12-25, ISO 15489 or ARMA’s The Principles? Can the agency affirm in a court and swear to the that the records provided are complete, accurate and have been managed to prevent alterations to the original text, audio or video file?

How does your agency stand up to the requirements outlined in the standards? Have you been able to apply the “rules” to the “tools” used to answer Public Records Requests? Do you have your rules in an easy to understand and use format?

Are there processes to follow the rules incorporated into the configurations and customizations of your tools?

Can you prove it?

Content/records/information management tools have evolved to enable your agency to build in your processes so that everyone is following the rules without having to think about them, and, all activity, not just the last modified/touched date, is preserved as part of the record’s history. The evolution has included true format-neutral record keeping and lifecycle management from creation/receipt to disposition, whether that is destruction or archival preservation, and, ransomware proofing.

Sound like something worth looking into? For a records health check and maturity level review to see where you stand, call on Western Integrated Systems.

Written by WIS



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