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Assemblyman Cunningham says police misconduct should be made public even if officer resigns

Angel Russell
Assemblyman Jordan Cunnigham is making a second effort at a bill that would make police misconduct and shooting records public

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham is making a second effort at a bill that would make police misconduct and shooting records public.

Cunningham said AB 718 would close a legal loophole when officers are accused of bad behavior. 

“I think it’s important for transparency," Cunningham said. "I think it’s important to rebuild some of the trust, and restore trust in law enforcement.”

Cunningham said investigations into officer misconduct are often dropped when the officer in question resigns.

As long as there are no criminal charges filed against the officer, current law allows the records of the misconduct to be kept confidential and shielded from public scrutiny. Also, the records aren’t released if that officer applies for a job at another department.

Cunningham said this bill would change that.

“It has the effect of giving more information to law enforcement agencies so they cannot unwittingly hire somebody that has this cloud of suspicion or has engaged in some bad deeds at a prior agency," Cunningham said. 

Cunningham said the case of former Paso Robles police Sgt. Christopher McGuire demonstrates how bad actors can game the system.

Three women accused McGuire of sexually assaulting them. One says he raped her. McGuire resigned from the department in October 2018 before the investigation into the accusations wrapped up.

The following month, District Attorney Dan Dow announced his office would not pursue charges against the officer because he found "insufficient evidence to prove non-consensual acts had occurred."

So, McGuire's records were sealed and media requests for more information turned away.

“I think 99.9% of sworn police officers do a difficult and important job," Cunningham said. "But there are a few bad apples, where somebody has abused their authority, and I think the public and the media has a right to know about that.”

Cunningham introduced a similar bill in 2019 that died in the Senate in November, but he said the COVID crisis meant lots of bills fell by the wayside.

Cunningham said he's confident this bill will have widespread support when it hits the Senate floor this summer.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.