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KCBX Two-Way: California's new police transparency law

Paso Robles Police Department
The SLO County District Attorney declined to file charges against the former Paso Robles police officer shown here, Christopher McGuire, accused of crimes while on duty.

In January, a new statewide police transparency law—SB 1421—went into effect, mandating police records be made public in cases of sustained findings against officers who commit sexual assault, use excessive force or engage in dishonesty-related conduct. However, the agencies that investigated criminal allegations against a former Paso Robles police officer have not turned over any documents relating to the case, as required under the new law.

The case against a former Paso Robles police officer was in the news in 2018 after the officer was accused of rape and abuse of power. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation into the allegations against former sergeant Christopher McGuire and forwarded findings to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. But the district attorney, Dan Dow, said in November his office did not have enough evidence to prosecute, despite a revelation that the sheriff’s office had recommended filing charges of forcible sex acts against McGuire. McGuire resigned from the Paso Robles Police Department in October, and Paso Robles officials said the city then closed its internal investigation before coming to a conclusion, after McGuire was no longer an employee. 

KCBX News spoke with the two San Luis Obispo Tribune reporters covering this story, Matt Fountain and Lindsey Holden, to unpack their reporting and explain efforts by the Tribune to strengthen the language of the new transparency law in the next legislative session.

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