Law would limit access to police records

By Greg Toumassian

The bill proposed by Norma Torres, California assemblywoman
and former Pomona mayor, is opposed by the California Newspaper
Publishers Association

Pomona Assemblywoman Norma Torres is being challenged by the
California Newspaper Publishers Association over proposed
legislation that would restrict public access to police
records.

Assembly Bill 1682 would amend the California Public Records Act
by limiting public access to the names and the addresses of victims
of crime and those arrested. The bill is supported by Los Angeles
County Sheriff Lee Baca.

The California Public Records act allows access to the addresses
of both the persons arrested and victims to those gathering the
information for scholarly, journalistic, political or governmental
purposes and for investigative purposes by licensed private
investigators.

The bill would restrict access to the addresses of crime victims
and suspects from journalists, researchers, politicians and other
purposes.

In a statement, Torres said the restriction is needed to protect
crime victims from retaliation from criminals.

“I introduced AB 1682 out of concern for the safety of people
and their families who have already been crime victims and could be
victimized again as the target of retaliatory violence,” said
Torres.

CNPA opposes the restriction on public access to law enforcement
records.

Tom Newton, general counsel of CNPA, said the bill would
diminish the public’s right to know about crime and the
effectiveness of police efforts, reducing public safety in
California and lessening accountability at all levels of
government.

“The public has an overriding interest of learning through the
press or scholars or people accessing [the information] for
political or governmental purpose, to be able to positively
identify persons accused of crime and victims of crime so that the
public can arm itself with these facts and make up its own
mind.”

After several meetings between CNPA and Torres’ staff, the bill
is likely to be narrowed to center on protecting victims’ safety
while disclosing arrestee address information.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the bill
intends to limit the use of public information for vengeful and
commercial purposes, specifically on the Internet.

“The sheriff’s intent is to protect victims from the new
technology and the proliferation of consumers becoming providers
and the real possibility that victims could be victimized further
if people know where they live.”

The LASD conducted an investigation and it was revealed that
information released in the courts was being used by advertisers to
solicit to arrestees, according to Whitmore.

The bill is in the process of being heard by two committees,
according to Gustavo Arroyo, aide to Torres.

“Our system indicates that it has a double referral: It’s going
to go to a committee on government organization and to public
safety because these two committees feel that they have a policy
jurisdiction over the bill.”

In a recent statement, CNPA announced that it will remain active
in opposing AB 1682 and will “continue to work the bill to protect
journalists’ ability to obtain the precise identity of both
arrestees and victims of crime.”

“Without [the address of a victim or arrestee], it is impossible
to positively identify a particular person arrested,” said
Newton.

Reach Greg Toumassian at: news@thepolypost.com

Law would limit access to police records

Law would limit access to police records

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