Last fall, Fremont’s city council also changed their police department’s records retention policy, reducing the amount of time that investigative files of officer-involved shootings must be saved from 25 years down to 10. (Darwin BondGraham/KQED)
Last year, while state lawmakers were considering a landmark bill to open up previously confidential police misconduct records to the public, the city of Fremont quietly destroyed a large archive of papers, cassettes and computer files documenting over four decades of internal affairs investigations and citizen complaints. It is not known if the destroyed records covered officer-involved shootings.
Last fall, Fremont’s City Council also changed the Police Department’s records retention policy, reducing the amount of time that investigative files of officer-involved shootings must be saved from 25 years to 10.
Fremont’s city attorney, city manager and Police Department did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment for this story.
There’s no evidence Fremont violated any state laws or its own policies, but few other Bay Area cities have been as aggressive in purging police files.
But some find the city’s actions troubling.
“Fremont’s decision is problematic because the Legislature made a decision, they made specific findings that transparency around police shootings, uses of force and incidents of serious misconduct is necessary to building public trust,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the American Civil Liberties Union of California.
Lawmakers passed SB 1421 in August. The law allows public access to previously confidential police records about use of force incidents resulting in great bodily harm and confirmed cases of sexual assault or dishonesty by an officer.