Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcomes new officers to the LAPD. (Photo Credit: Antonia Villaraigosa)
Transparency has always been a big deal here at California Forward, but events over the last few days have turned our attention to the issue even more. On Tuesday, Heather Young of Santa Rosa commented on our Facebook post about Oakland’s new Open Data Platform. She mentioned how her local newspaper had to go to court in order to get the city’s pension numbers.
Shouldn’t this information have been open to the public to begin with? That’s why initiatives like the International Open Data Hackathon – which is Saturday, Feb. 23 – are created. The Hackathon, according to its website, is intended to expose information to the public.
“It’s a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data,” the site explains. The hope is to “encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments.”
While cities like Oakland, which followed in the footsteps of Palo Alto’s Open Data Platform, are receptive to the push for transparency, other government organizations are far more resistant. One that’s been in the news lately is the Los Angeles Police Department.
When former officer Christopher Dorner went on his revenge-killing spree, obscured by the sensationalized manhunt was his claim that a fellow officer committed acts of police brutality, an allegation that LAPD’s internal review board deemed false. He was then fired. While Dorner’s credibility evaporated once he killed four people, we have no way of knowing if he actually deserved to be fired because the LAPD doesn’t release its disciplinary proceedings to the public.
These hearings and the records that come with them need to be open to the public. If they were open, we would know whether Dorner is a murderer, or if he’s a murderer with a grievance that should have been properly addressed.
Former state senator Gloria Romero, writing for the Orange County Register, explained just how critical it is that the state overturn the 2006 California Supreme Court decision that sealed misconduct information. “Transparency in police misconduct cases generally gives the public a greater sense that there was a fair evaluation and a just level of discipline,” she writes.
The state senator was behind a 2007 bill that was designed to restore public access to the information, but despite the support of then-LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the bill was no match for the police union lobby which stopped it in its tracks.
“When officers’ alleged misconduct reaches the level that disciplinary action is taken, there is a public interest in having that information be public record,” Romero continues. “There is never a statute of limitation on righting a wrong.”
We agree with Romero, and we feel that the philosophy of transparency taken on by Oakland, Palo Alto, and the Open Data Hackathon is something that the LAPD should readopt – if not by choice, then by law.