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Transparency Advocates Assail Inglewood’s Plan to Shred Records of Hundreds of Police Shootings

[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]ivil rights and transparency activists decried the decision by Inglewood Mayor James Butts to destroy more than 100 police shooting records, which includes the destruction in some cases of years of investigative work, just days before a new state law would allow the public access to them.

The Inglewood City Council earlier this month approved the action ahead of the January 1 implementation of state Senate Bill 1421, which will make public investigations of officer shootings, use of major force, confirmed cases of sexual assault, and lying while on duty.

Access to those records could open a window into Inglewood’s police department, which has been beset by allegations of excessive force, poor officer training, and a lack of transparency.

In 2008, department officers shot four men in four months. Three turned out to be unarmed. The records that the city will destroy would include investigations into those shootings from 10 years ago. The Justice Department launched a probe and found flaws in the way the department oversaw use-of-force cases and investigations involving complaints against officers.

The city’s decision attracted more than routine attention because of its timing and because it represented a change in city policy. Inglewood had required the Police Department to retain records on shootings involving officers for 25 years after the close of an investigation. That is until this month. The ones to be destroyed extend as far back as 1991. The new law aimed at allowing public access to exactly the type of records held by the Inglewood Police Department, regardless of the date of the incident.

The city resolution states, “The chief of police and city attorney have determined that specified records are obsolete, occupy valuable space, and are of no further use to the police department.”

The Inglewood Police Department employs 186 sworn personnel and 92 civilian support personnel.

Other law enforcement departments in the area are fighting to curtail how the law will affect them. A police union in San Bernardino is asking the state Supreme Court to exempt cases prior to 2019. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore told the bill's author, State Sen. Nancy Skinner, in a letter that complying with her bill would result in hundreds of thousands of work hours regarding older records that the department has in its possession.

Under the new state law, California police departments must retain records of officer-involved shootings and misconduct for a five-year period.

RELATED: How the Rams and Chargers Stadium Under Construction in Inglewood Is Already Impacting Local Restaurants

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