The Long Beach Police Department is requesting that an agenda item, concerned with the destruction of police records, be removed from next week’s Long Beach City Council agenda.
“We’re reevaluating all of our processes to ensure we’re maintaining transparency,” LBPD public information officer Arantxa Chavarria said.
The agenda item initially called for the council’s approval on the destruction of police records from July 2014 to December 2014, which include use of force reviews and internal affairs complaint investigations. These requests are routine.
Why police destroy certain records
Like many other cities, LBPD is on a records retention schedule. This means that every six months, the department seeks counsel and submits a request for the city council to approve records destruction.
“We don’t have the system to sustain thousands of records,” Chavarria said. “We’re reevaluating the process to see if there are better ways maybe, and I don’t know what the solution will be, to figure out a different way we can retain the records without having them destroyed.”
Legally, the LBPD is allowed to destroy civilian complaint records after they’ve maintained them for a period of five years. With the records retention schedule, records are usually destroyed almost exactly five years after their creation. Chavarria said that this may not be the case in the future.
“Obviously [transparency] is very important to us, and it’s very important for the community to trust what we’re doing,” Chavarria said. “If that’s a concern, we’re obviously going to listen and try our best to address it. That’s what we’re doing right now.”
Community response to record destruction
The community has weighed in on the issue. At a budget teach-in co-hosted by the Advancement Project and multiple Long Beach nonprofits, residents shared their thoughts on the destruction of police records in the Zoom chat.
“Let’s start by making [police] data public over the past 19 years and then by demanding transparency from them,” Michelle Gath wrote, critiquing the Citizen Police Complaint Commission.
As the chat became more focused on police records than budgets, District 2 Councilmember Jeannine Pearce contributed to the discussion, agreeing that transparency was important.
“We would need a policy to protect records, because records get destroyed across the board as city policy,” Pearce said. “Let’s make it a priority.”
Though the future of police record retention is still up in the air, one thing seems sure: no police records will be destroyed next week. As of publishing this story, the item has been withdrawn from next week’s council agenda.