David Onek, who is running against District Attorney George Gascón this fall, says that if elected, he will do something the sitting DA won't: Share department records with the public.
He said this all while lambasting his rival, who has come under fire for trying to keep department records secret.
Gascón and his deputy, Paul Henderson,
have refused to release police-involved shooting records spanning 2000 to 2010. Additionally, Henderson stated on Feb. 28 that the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance has "no jurisdiction" over the DA's investigative files -- even for long-ago closed cases.
But Onek, who Saturday hosted a campaign event featuring his father-in-law, 1988 Democratic Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis, said the DA's records policy will change if he wins in November.
"A big part of working with the community is building trust. A few
things that happened when the DA was asked to release records on
officer-involved shootings did not create trust," Onek said.
In a follow-up interview Monday, Onek added he would reverse a long-standing District Attorney's office policy of disregarding the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, which requires local officials to respond forthrightly to public records requests.
"The default is always to be as transparent as you possibly can be, because that's how you build trust with the community, and trust with the community is what makes us safer," said Onek, a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall.
According to the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance:
The District Attorney, Chief of Police, andHowever, in a Feb. 28 letter to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, Henderson stated that the local ordinance governing public records access did not apply to the the DA. According to Henderson:
Sheriff are encouraged to cooperate with the press and other members of
the public in allowing access to local records pertaining to
investigations, arrests, and other law enforcement activity...
...Records pertaining to any investigation,
arrest or other law enforcement activity shall be disclosed to the
public once the District Attorney or court determines that a prosecution
will not be sought against the subject involved, or once the statute of
limitations for filing charges has expired, whichever occurs first
The district attorney's position is grounded in the California Public Records Act andHenderson was responding to a 2010 complaint that your correspondent filed after the DA's office repeatedly refused to release long-closed investigative files in its possession.
supported by Rivero v. Superior Court, (1997) 54 Cal. App. 4th 1048, in which the court
explicitly held that neither the California Public Records nor the San Francisco Sunshine
Ordinance compels disclosure of district attorney investigation files. In reaching this conclusion,
the court found that investigation and prosecution of state criminal laws are statewide concerns,
not municipal affairs; accordingly, conflicting local ordinances -- and specifically the Sunshine
Ordinance -- must yield to state law.