he wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn even more slowly when it comes to achieving substantial legislative reform. With little fanfare and no statement, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allows the public to learn details from investigations of police shootings, major use-of-force incidents and officers who may have falsified reports, planted evidence or committed a sexual assault. This is a no-brainer in a free society, but it took civil libertarians 12 years of work to overcome the scare tactics of police unions, GOP legislators and other members of the Secrecy Lobby.
I've had plenty of issues with Brown, but his signing of Senate Bill 1421—and his same-day signing of Assembly Bill 748, which requires police departments to release body camera footage of most use-of-force incidence within 45 days—certainly redeems his governorship in my eyes. The new laws bring us closer to the state of affairs that existed before 2006, when a dreadful California Supreme Court decision slammed the door on openness and police accountability. Since then, police agencies have had free reign to protect their worst officers.