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California in Brief / SACRAMENTO

Public's right to know is affirmed

May 21, 2008|Teresa Watanabe

The public generally has a right to know the names of law enforcement officers involved with lethal force and other critical incidents, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown has concluded.

But Brown said law enforcement agencies may not be required to disclose the names of officers if they were involved in undercover operations, work that might involve retaliation by gang members, or other situations where identifying them would harm more than help the public interest. Decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis, he wrote.

Brown issued the opinion in response to a request from Riverside County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco. In the opinion, Brown said the California Public Records Act, ensuring the public's right to monitor government activities, must be balanced against other state laws.

Court rulings have generally held that officers' names should be disclosed unless doing so revealed confidential information from their personnel records, risked an investigation or jeopardized their safety.

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