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Locking up the secrets of dirty cops

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LA Voice is paying attention to one of those little things that could mean a lot:

The Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission is considering an effort to seal from public view the investigative records of law enforcement officials accused of dishonesty, excessive force and other misconduct.

We know just a teeny bit about the history of law enforcement in LA, and it's not pretty. Recently there was the complex Rampart scandal, in which dirty cops were found to have been involved in framing people and dealing drugs. Before that we had the Christopher Commission, formed to investigate the LAPD's use of force after the Rodney King beating, which found "There is a significant number of officers in the LAPD who repetitively use excessive force against the public and persistently ignore the written guidelines of the department regarding force." For years, the ACLU has tussled with the LAPD and won in repeated efforts to bring reform to the department.

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Local law enforcement has never been very good at policing itself; it takes external efforts to bring about change. And continued reform is predicated on having access to records about the bad apples.

We know that most police officers and sheriff's deputies aren't corrupt. But we don't understand what good sealing the records will do for them; to us, it sounds like it will just make Training Day-style cops a whole lot more likely.