Transparency is important between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, but it must be tempered by security considerations before revealing law enforcement equipment shortages in a public hearing. This bill fails to strike the proper balance.
Moreover the bill is unnecessary, as President Obama’s Executive Order 13688 will implement a similar requirement for governing bodies to grant approval of surplus military equipment.
The particular requirement Brown refers to states that, as one of many criteria to be fulfilled as part of the application process, law enforcement agencies must provide “evidence of civilian governing body’s review and approval or concurrence of the (law enforcement agency’s) acquisition of the requested . . . equipment.” Such a review and approval or concurrence could be accomplished, under the Brown Act, only at an open and public meeting. The Executive Order thus fails to strike what the Governor believes to be “the proper balance” between transparency and “security considerations” much more clearly than AB 36.
Campos briefly amended her bill at the last moment to allow local bodies to discuss their departments’ application for equipment in closed session—and keep the shopping list secret—but then quickly withdrew that provision when CalAware, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and at least two major newspapers attacked it. It may be that another consideration in the about-face was that satisfying Executive Order 13688’s application process would have been next to impossible given the secrecy authorized by the amendment.
It is still not known who prevailed on Campos to gut her open meeting requirements after committee hearings were over, but it seems likely that it was the same source that convinced the Governor of the silly proposition that the bill would expose “law enforcement equipment shortages” in the arms race with the forces of lawlessness and disorder.
OTHER BILLS SIGNED
SB 178 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) Protection from warrantless police searches of emails, text messages, photos and smartphones
SB 387 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – State Bar subjected to California Public Records Act, Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act
AB 856 by Assemblymember Ian C. Calderon (D-Whittier) – Paparazzi privacy invasion by drone-borne camera
SB 34 by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) – Automated license plate recognition systems; prior open meeting comment