One of the best ways folks can hold their public officials accountable is by keeping close tabs on public documents, whether they’re officials’ emails, memos, video footage, lawsuits, contracts or even text messages.
These records can shed light on how public policy is created, and give us a window into how public officials are behaving. Recently, state leaders have introduced legislation to reform the process of obtaining records.
Take SB 1421, a landmark law passed last year that gives the public access to records of police shootings and substantiated allegations of sexual assault or lying by on-duty officers. Then there was SB 615, written by Sen. Ben Hueso and sponsored by the San Diego city attorney’s office, which would have made it much harder for members of the public to take government agencies to court in instances in where officials failed to disclose records. After media outlets and several local leaders voiced their opposition, Hueso pulled his bill.
While the public can request any records they’d like, not all of them can be made public.
On this week’s San Diego Explained, Voice of San Diego’s Jesse Marx and NBC 7’s Catherine Garcia go through the different ways the public can access records and how they help keep local governments accountable.