Transparency is absolutely essential to government. It helps ensure that problems are acknowledged and addressed. With the exception of a handful of issues generally involving negotiations on contracts, services and land purchases, open government should be the norm.
That’s why it was so heartening when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to require that police make available records detailing police shootings, police interactions with the public that turned violent, and sustained complaints of officers’ sexual assaults and lying. Previously, access to such information was extremely limited.
Police unions — and many chiefs and sheriffs — have fought transparency for so long that it may just feel like a natural and automatic response. But in an era in which cellphone videos have documented so much police misconduct, this reflexive opposition to openness isn’t a good look. It demands the question: What do they have to hide?
Yes, policing is very difficult, complicated and demanding work. But law enforcement officers still must be held accountable for bad conduct.