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Mayor, police chief back bill to open records

March 28, 2007|Matt Lait | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have officially endorsed a state Senate bill aimed at increasing the public's access to police disciplinary records, a legislative spokesman said Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) is proposing to "reverse a Supreme Court decision that requires police departments across the state to keep information from the police disciplinary hearings secret."

Romero's office said Tuesday that the bill was filed after discussions with Los Angeles' mayor and police chief.

Winning their support, a spokesman said, improves its chance of passage.

"We wanted to make sure everyone was on board," said Russ Lopez, a spokesman for Romero's office.

Police union officials say they intend to fight any efforts to chip away at police privacy rights, which were strengthened last summer as a result of Copley Press Inc. vs. Superior Court of San Diego.

In that case, the court prohibited public disclosure of personnel records of a sheriff's deputy appealing discipline at a county civil service commission.

Following that ruling, LAPD officials denied public access to disciplinary hearings that traditionally had been open.

A public outcry erupted earlier this year when a disciplinary panel secretly exonerated an officer involved in one high-profile shooting, even though the civilian Police Commission had said the officer should be punished.

Community and city leaders criticized the closed-door decision and called for reforms that would reopen the hearings.

Bratton and Villaraigosa said they would support such a move.

matt.lait@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Scott Glover contributed to this report.

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