On the final day of September of this year, Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed Senate Bill 1421 into state law. This new legislation would make it much easier for the public to gain access to the personnel files for any law enforcement officers involved in shootings, physical abuse leading to death, sexual assault, or lying.
SB 1421 is scheduled to become the law of the land in California come January 1st, and it has a lot of civil rights activists and victims’ relatives chomping at the bit for their chance to see what was never meant to be seen.
With that deadline in mind, many eyebrows were raised this past Sunday when the Los Angeles Times reported that the city of Inglewood has made some last minute plans to purge their police department of over 100 past officer-involved shooting cases, and they may have already permanently done so.
In a city council meeting earlier in December, Inglewood city officials voted to allow for the shredding of over 100 of the city’s internal investigations into police shootings and other controversial cases.
Their timeline for that destruction was not mentioned at the meeting, but odds are that they are either well underway or over and done with considering the fact that the reports would all be public property one week from today – and we can’t have that now, can we?
Inglewood’s mayor, James T. Butts Jr., scoffed at the suggestion that the city is looking to sweep its past misdeeds under the rug.
“This premise that there was an intent to beat the clock is ridiculous,” said Butts as he nervously stared at the clock on the wall.
He pointed out that even though the city is only required to keep such records for five years, they have stacks dating back to the early 1990’s. He used this tidbit of info to try to gaslight his critics by wondering out loud why he would care what happened back then since he just got to the mayor’s office in 2011.
“How would they be embarrassing to me? I wasn’t even here for those records. The records are what they are.” - Mayor Butts giving a free lesson in Gaslighting 101
He’d like for everyone to forget the fact that he is a former police chief and so he knows full well how damaging the reopening of these files could be not just from a public relations standpoint, but as a potential sinkhole of re-litigation and civil suits once victims’ friends and families began to uncover long lost truths.
If there is truly nothing embarrassing for the city or local law enforcement in those records, what reason would Inglewood city officials have for destroying them on the eve of their public release?
Official Response: The records in question are “obsolete, occupy valuable space, and are of no further use to the police department.”
Ok, well the 1st and 3rd reasons are just the same opinion, reworded – worthless to the debate.
That 2nd reason is genuinely moronic in a digital era of easily uploaded, hyper-condensed, wireless cloud storage.
At a time in our nation’s history where trust between the public and the police is at a new low, this lack of transparency by the city of Inglewood will only serve to sow more seeds of distrust whose fruit we’ll one day have to harvest.