Responding to criticism that he was failing to release public records involving law-enforcement-involved shootings as required by a new state law, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes Tuesday said he would issue a slew of documents on Wednesday.
Various California news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register, reported that law enforcement authorities were not abiding by Senate Bill 1421, which makes many records involving police-involved shootings available to the public.
In a letter Barnes posted on Twitter, he denied he was slow-walking requests for records.
“Some in the media have implied that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is `stalling’ and only pressure from reporters has moved the process along,” Barnes said. “This is false. We have continued to work on identifying, reviewing and redacting responsive documents.”
Barnes said the “significant change in public records law… failed to provide local entities with resources to comply with the new mandate and was unclear as to whether it applied retroactively.”
Barnes said in the letter that releasing the records is a laborious process that he said requires many levels of government to inspect before releasing to protect personal information of victims, witnesses, the accused, law enforcement and others.
“Some incidents may have thousands of documents and hours of video,” he said. “The due diligence required in this process is why it takes so long to produce records.”
Barnes said last year the department’s deputies responded to 363,023 calls for service and only 0.1% involved use of force.
Barnes said instead of releasing media-requested records to just the reporters who sought them he will post them on the sheriff’s website at ocsd.org.
“I encourage you to view these documents absent the lens of sensationalism and innuendo,” Barnes said. “I trust that you will view these records judiciously, and see that the vast majority of our deputies do an excellent job, often under difficult circumstances, with professionalism and integrity.”
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