New State Laws Requiring Release of Police Records: Recently enacted state law, including California Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748, require release of police records in certain limited types of police incidents. The types of cases that qualify under these laws are officer-involved shootings, uses of force that result in death or great bodily injury, sustained findings of sexual assault, and sustained findings of dishonesty.
Why the Department is Releasing Materials Now: You may be asking why the Police Department is releasing these videos now. Prior to disclosing records under these laws, active investigations need to either be concluded or reach a point where disclosure would not substantially interfere with that investigation. These laws also required Police Department personnel to develop new procedures and administrative functions, to conduct detailed audio and video redaction work necessary to safeguard privacy in certain circumstances, and to ensure compliance with all laws and privacy protections through legal review.
Three Palo Alto Cases Fall Under State Law Disclosure: The two referenced California state laws were enacted and took effect in 2019. The first law went into effect on January 1, 2019. Consistent with state law, the police records retention schedule for administrative investigations is to retain records in the current year plus the five prior years. Based on the City’s review of the state laws, since January 1, 2014, there are three cases that qualify for release. Records from all three of those cases appear below in their relevant category, and were released in June and July 2020. The Palo Alto Police Department has not had any other cases since then that have met the criteria for public release under either Senate Bill 1421 or Assembly Bill 748.
Police Briefings Released Seek to Increase Public Understanding of Materials Released: In evaluating best practices of other agencies releasing similar materials, the Police Department established procedures to narrate Police Briefing Videos (expand the "Police Incidents" accordion below) to provide context that may increase the public’s understanding of what they are watching in the raw video of the incident. Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748 only require the records themselves be disclosed.
Police Records Released Are Limited in Scope to the Specific Use of Force Details: The Police Briefing Videos are limited in scope and breadth to the purpose of addressing the underlying reason for disclosure based on City review of the state laws (e.g., a use of force that results in death or great bodily injury, sustained findings of sexual assault, and sustained findings of dishonesty). The intent of the Police Briefing Videos is not to provide a detailed accounting of the entire incident from start to finish, a justification or Department finding on the conduct of our personnel, or even the outcome of the case. The information included in the narration is derived from facts known to the police or information taken directly from the official reports of the incident.