Thousands of criminals are on a database in Calfornia for their offenses in the past decade. From domestic abuse to shoplifting to murder, these people all have committed some of society’s worst wrongs. But in the Golden State, the highest-ranking police officer doesn’t think you have the right to look at the list. Interestingly, this very list comprises of the Attorney General’s own felon cops.
Attorney General Becerra Threatens Legal Action
California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standing (POST) kept records showing when a current or former officer was not qualified to serve due to felony charges. Last month, they released a list of these officers to two news outlets. But three weeks later, Attorney General Xavier Becerra cracked down on the organizations. He stated that POST released the documents “inadvertently” and that they were confidential. As a result, the outlets, based in Berkeley, would face charges if they did not destroy the documents.
POST, however, has not confirmed that they released the documents by accident. Becerra has also not responded to any requests for comment.
David Snyder of the First Amendment Coalition that advocates for a free press, believes that Becerra is in the wrong.
“It’s disheartening and ominous that the highest law enforcement officer in the state is threatening legal action over something the First Amendment makes clear can’t give rise to criminal action against a reporter.”
However, the legality of the action may not be quite so black-and-white. A Congressional Research Paper recently noted that the legality of publishing classified documents is not a firm matter yet. But Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at Kansas University, suggests that the published documents would have to cause “immediate and irreparable damage” to be worthy of prosecution. Becerra, as of now, has not publicly given evidence that would affirm this notion.
The List of Felon Cops
The list, which investigative journalists at UC Berkeley published, contains nearly 12,000 total names. Around 3,500 of the names match officers currently on police databases. Of those, approximately two-thirds have been police officers in the last five years.
The crimes ranged drastically in severity and nature. Officer Joshua Cannon of Hayward for driving 92 MPH with an alcohol content almost double the legal limit. In the end, he only received a misdemeanor for drunk driving and is still on the force. Sargeant John Haggett in 2014 faced an accusation of helping a girlfriend find dirt on tenants. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for accessing confidential information and is also still on the force. He has since retired.
Many other officers have committed far more serious crimes while on the force. These include child pornography, shoplifting, fraud, child molestation, embezzlement, and even murder. Despite this, Becarro still asserts that people do not have a right to access information regarding felon cops.
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