The San Jose Mercury News has this story about two California Supreme Court cases that will allow greater access to records about public employees’ pay and police personnel records.

The court ruled that the salaries of public officials, including police officers, are public records available on request, the article states. That decision comes at the end of a three year court battle instigated by the Contra Costa Times in Oakland.

Here’s some context from the story:

The decision is a defeat for the public employee unions that had appealed a 2004 decision of an Alameda County Superior Court judge who ordered the records released.

“Despite the wrong-headed and persistent opposition of public employee unions, the court has reaffirmed a basic tenet of American democracy. That (sic) public business must be conducted in public,” said John Armstrong president and publisher of the Times.

The Times attorney Karl Olson said the decision upholds the long-held premise that salary information is public and it overrules a 2003 appellate court decision that governments have cited to block access to salary data.

“I think this is a landmark opinion affirming the public’s right of access to information about how the government is run and how tax dollars are spent,” Olson said.

In a second decision, the court ruled on a case originally brought by the Los Angeles Times regarding the hiring and firing of police officers.

This Los Angeles Times article gives some more insight on that case:

The Commission on Peace Officer Standards, which collects information from law enforcement departments, insisted the names and hiring dates of police were confidential, and a divided appeals’ court ruled in favor of keeping the records secret.

In overturning that decision, the court said the public “clearly has a legitimate interest in the matters that The Times seeks to investigate.”

I have tried in vain to get all sorts of records on the San Diego Police Department’s recruitment, retention and other personnel matters. A couple of months ago, I asked for a list of police officers who have left the department in the last year. They denied the request.

I, for one, am going to start typing records requests.

WILL CARLESS

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