Police officers on the street arresting bad guys provide little value if they can't later testify in court. Cities must be able to replace cops whose credibility on the witness stand is questionable because of past deceit.
But a bill backed by police officers and headed for Gov. Jerry Brown's desk would tie the hands of local governments, making it much more difficult to replace those ineffective cops. It's the wrong solution to a legitimate concern. The governor should veto it.
Under a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors must disclose to defense attorneys any evidence that could help them defend their clients. That includes information about past dishonesty of the cops involved in the case. It's only fair.
As a result, district attorney offices across the state keep "Brady lists" of officers who have been identified as dishonest. As a practical matter, landing on those lists undermines officers' job effectiveness because their credibility will be called into question when they are called to testify.
SB313, introduced by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would make it harder to remove those cops from the street. In disciplinary proceedings against an officer, a local government could not mention that the cop is on the district attorney's list. Similarly, officers could not be denied promotions because their names have been placed on the lists.
Cash-strapped local governments would be stuck with the officers and would not be able to take corrective action unless they independently proved in disciplinary hearings that the officers had lied or otherwise misbehaved. The governments could also be exposed to greater liability for knowingly keeping bad cops.
That's why associations representing cities, counties, police chiefs and sheriffs across the state oppose the bill. Yet, the Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the bill. Only five legislators -- including Sens. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco -- opposed it.
To be sure, procedures used by district attorney offices across the state for placing an officer on the list are inconsistent. In some cases, the cops have a right to a hearing; in others, they don't.
That raises fairness and due process issues. That's what the Legislature should address. It should be done through a law governing the district attorneys' constructions of the lists.
Hindering the ability of local government to get rid of bad cops, or to deny them promotions, doesn't solve the problem. But it will help rogue officers keep their jobs.