Meanwhile, UC-Berkeley has a potential press freedom case
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From the Mercury News: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Friday didn’t rule out the possibility that his office could take legal action against Berkeley-based journalists who received a secret list of California police officers convicted of crimes.
“Someone who’s in possession of information that is unauthorized is supposed to return it or destroy it,” Becerra said at an unrelated news conference. “I don’t get to ignore the law. The law says that unauthorized possession or use of that type of data is a crime.”
His statements come amid an escalating debate over police transparency and First Amendment rights in California.
Earlier this year, journalists at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley and its production arm, Investigative Studios, filed public records requests to a state commission and received a database of thousands of police officers and applicants for law enforcement jobs convicted of crimes in the last decade. The data was released by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, known as POST, which determines whether officers and applicants have been convicted of crimes that would disqualify them from serving.
When Becerra’s office learned of the disclosure, it sent the Berkeley reporters a letter warning them that the database was released mistakenly and that it was a crime to publish or even possess the list.
The attorney general has faced a wave of criticism from press rights advocates and others since the reporters first published a story Tuesday in the Bay Area News Group about the convictions list and Becerra’s response.
On Friday, Becerra insisted that he wasn’t threatening the journalists. “We sent the letter, but we never threatened anyone with anything,” he said. “We just restated the law.”
But the letter from Becerra’s office clearly implies that the reporters could face consequences: “If you do not intend to comply with our request, the Department can take legal action to ensure that the spreadsheets are properly deleted and not disseminated,” the letter states.
The Berkeley-based journalists said Friday that they intend to continue reporting stories based on the database and rejected Becerra’s request to destroy it...