California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has issued an edict to a pair of investigative reporters who obtained police discipline data following a California Public Records Act request filed with the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
The documents included records related to around 12,000 current and former officers as well as individuals who applied to be officers. The list contained accusations of criminal conduct against some of those officers, including allegations of shoplifting, child molestation and murder.
Becerra’s officer later told the journalists the list was inadvertently disclosed to them and ordered the journalists to destroy and not disclose it. They refused, disclosing the list in a series of reporting from the U.C. Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program in collaboration with a handful of other newsrooms.
Becerra has since contemplated criminal charges against the reporters for their disclosure, something press freedom advocates say is a serious threat to their First Amendment protections and civic duty to inform the public.
Speaking to FOX40 News, Mark said freedom of the press is hard to challenge in court, even if journalists have records that normally wouldn’t be disclosable, as long as the reporters don’t obtain the records through illegal means.
“It’s very difficult for [police or prosecutors] to take [the records] from you, to punish you for having them or to prevent you from publishing them,” Mark said.
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