The Contra Costa Times is reporting that Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada, wants to put amendments in a bill that originally dealt with police interrogations. An editorial in the Sacramento Bee describes the changes as “stealth amendments” and describes their inception:
Assembly Bill 1855 originally dealt with interrogation of police
officers under investigation. But, as reported in the Contra Costa
Times, a police lobbying group, the Peace Officers Research Association
of California, is hawking amendments that would reverse state Supreme
Court decisions affirming the public’s right to names, badge numbers,
salaries and dates of employment.
According to the Sac Bee, Portantino’s staff says the bill is about protecting undercover police officers, which the paper claims are already protected:
Since the effort to change the law has been exposed, Portantino’s staff
says that what the assemblyman really wants to do is “craft a set of
amendments to this bill to specifically protect the identities of
undercover officers.” But the law and court interpretation already does
that. This is an effort in search of a problem.
As a journalist, this issue is a no-brainer for me, but we are very oriented towards the importance of keeping records public. I’m sure police groups would argue that any piece of information about an officer’s identity could lead to someone tracking that officer down… but officers are not really shy about giving out their names, which is the only info I think could really lead to that happening. Salary info is not going to reveal anything about the officer, as long as his personal information is redacted when the records are handed over to the public.
Unsurprisingly, the California Newspaper Publishers Association had the strongest words on the issue in the Contra Costa Times article:
“Portantino’s bill would
stop the public from monitoring excessive pay, overtime abuse,
nepotism, gender and race discrimination, and the migration of
potentially abusive peace officers from one agency to the next,” Tom
Newton, the associations’ general counsel, said in a statement.
I notice that neither paper appeared to get a direct comment from the Assemblyman or his office, however, so I will email them and ask if they have a response to this blog post.
UPDATE: The bill amendments described by the Contra Costa Times were never introduced. Assemblyman Portantino and his staff have told me in multiple conversations that Portantino never had any intention of supporting the amendments.