California Public Records Act Information (CPRA)
In 1968, the California Legislature enacted the California Public Records Act (CPRA) under Government Code (GC) sections 6250-6270. In its findings and declarations, mindful of the right of individuals' privacy, the Legislature declared it was the public’s right to access information concerning the people’s business.
The purpose of the Act is to give the public access to information that enables them to monitor the functioning of their government. The Act’s fundamental precept is that governmental records shall be disclosed to the public, upon request, unless there is a legal basis not to do so.
The Act provides for two types of access. One is a right to inspect public records:
“Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided.”
The other is a right to prompt availability of copies of those records:
“Except with respect to public records exempt from disclosure by express provisions of law, each state or local agency, upon a request for a copy of records that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, shall make the records promptly available to any person upon payment of fees covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable. Upon request, an exact copy shall be provided unless impracticable to do so.”
The rights of access are not unlimited and do not extend to records that are exempt from disclosure. In fact, the Act was the culmination of a 15-year effort by the Legislature to create a comprehensive general records law that attempted to accumulate all the exemptions in one location.
Previously, one was required to look at the law governing the specific type of record in question in order to determine its disclosability. The Act now expressly states or references other laws that are the sources of legal authority permitting records to be withheld.
The League of California Cities has produced a very thorough and detailed guide for the public records act. If you are interested in learning more about the act you may download the guide at the bottom of this web page.
Some records, such as crime statistics and related reports, are immediately available to the public via the police department’s website at: https://www.shafter.com/179/Department-Reports. Additional information may also be gleaned from the departments Citizen RIMS website at: https://shpd.crimegraphics.com/2013/default.aspx. How to use this program is detailed on the departments reports page.
Records Exempt from Public Requests
Items that are exempt, subject to Government Code (GC) 6254, and will likely be redacted are:
● Identifying juvenile information
● Identifying victim information related to Penal Code Sections 261,264,264.1,273a,273d,286,288 or 289
● Confidential informant identifying information
● Criminal offender record information
● Information that may endanger the safety of a witness or the other person
● Information that may jeopardize an investigation, related investigation or law enforcement proceeding
● Any portion of the report that reflects analysis, recommendation or conclusion of the investigating officer
● Information that may disclose investigative techniques
● Information that may deprive a person of a fair trial
● Preliminary drafts, notes, or memorandums which are not retained in the ordinary course of business
● Records pertaining to pending litigation to which the city is a party until the litigation is adjudicated or settled
● Personnel, medical or similar files
● Follow ups to initial investigation
● Traffic Collision reports can be released to person(s) who have a proper interest, consistent with existing law, CVC 20012.
Responding to your request
Prompt access to public records is required by the CPRA (Government Code 6253). However, the agency has 10 days to respond to the request, either providing the information, or may provide a detailed explanation as to what information may be released or what cannot because it is protected by law. The 10-day period mentioned in the act is not a legal deadline for producing records, rather it is a time frame which allows the agency to review records to determine if the records being sought are legally allowed to be released or whether they are exempt. As soon as a determination is made, the request will receive a response as to the status, cost, and/or time frame as some records may need to be released incrementally due to size and extent.
The rights under the CPRA provide for the inspection of public records or to obtain copies of identifiable records, it does not compel the agency to create lists or reports in response to the request.
Under Government Code 6253(b), Agencies may charge for the "direct costs" for providing copies of an identifiable record. Typically a fee of twenty cents per printed page is charged for copies of documents.
*Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests apply only to federal agencies, the Shafter Police Department is a local government agency and so it is not subject to such requests.
A request may be made in person or by obtaining a copy from a local agency. The choice is up to the requestor. A request may also be made to have the documents emailed to a specific email address.
The request may be made during regular office hours, excluding holidays, but the right to demand to see a record immediately is not required. The response time for the agency to respond is governed specifically in the act.
Form of the Request
A public record request may be made in writing or orally, in person or by phone. A written request may also be made in paper or electronic form and may be mailed, emailed, faxed, or personally delivered. We may ask if you will put your request in writing but it is not mandatory in every request. However, absent a written request, our personnel will orally verify exactly what is being requested, will record the conversation, and verbally verify the request being made at the completion of the call or personal conversation regarding a records request. If a request is made that is not clear, then the agency may request clarification in order to respond accordingly.
A request for records under CPRA utilizes the same record request document found on the preceding page entitled: Records/Reports - California Public Records Act.To access the fillable PDF (Portable Document Format) record request form please click on the below hyperlink:
Depending on what kind of record you are requesting, the response may come from Records, or it may come from the Chief's office. General departmental requests such as crime reports, calls for service, traffic accidents and similar categories will be responded to by our Records Unit. Other records, for example asking for specific police officer information, pay information, use of force incidents, or similar type requests will be responded to by the Chief's Office. If you have questions and want to discuss your request, or make a verbal request, you may contact our Records unit by email here:(eMail to: RECORDS UNIT) or by phone at (661) 746-8564.
Regardless of your request, you will need to ensure that the scope of the request is clear enough for personnel to determine if we have the records you seek, and if so, are we authorized to release them and to what extent.
In order to accomplish this it is recommended that you minimally have the following:
1) The date of the record(s) sought;
2) The subject or incident type of the record sought;
3) A clear and specific description of the record sought;
4) Any additional information that helps staff identify the specific record being sought;
5) Your complete contact information so that we may notify you when your request is available.
Additional Resources which may be helpful:
State of California - Department of Justice (https://oag.ca.gov/)
State of California Department of Justice Reports: https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/data (This site provides you with all the data sets submitted by public agencies to the DOJ. Whole spreadsheets may be accessed and downloaded pertaining to Arrests, Complaints against Peace Officers, Crimes and Clearances, Use of Force and many other reporting resources.)