The best way to get records from the Sheriff is to make a polite, specific request for identifiable records. A potential requester might start with the Sheriff’s Public Information Officer, Drew Sugars. He can assist or direct the citizen. If a legal question arises about the scope of a request or whether particular information must be disclosed, the Sheriff’s Department can contact the county counsel’s office.
Under the California Public Records Act, a government agency must cooperate with the requester of public records, and must disclose the records in the requested format unless the law specifically exempts the information from disclosure.
There is an exemption for law enforcement complaints and investigatory and security files compiled by local law enforcement agencies. (Government Code § 6254(f).) That section has several exceptions to the exemption. These require agencies to disclose certain information about arrests or complaints to the agency unless disclosure would endanger witnesses or the successful completion of the investigation.
Under § 6254(f)(3), a person may request the current address of every individual arrested by the agency and the current address of the victim of a crime, within a specific limited time and area and declare under penalty of perjury that the request is made for a scholarly, journalistic, political, or governmental purpose and will not be used otherwise. The representatives of a community or neighborhood watch group may make such a request and declaration of purpose. Any request for information under the Public Records act must make a specific request for information, e.g., limited by location and time. Requesters may be denied disclosure for various reasons, including danger to witnesses, other persons and investigations, limitation on giving names and addresses to criminal defendants, and protection of identity of victims of sex crimes.
The same rules apply to requests for information about crimes within cities, except that the requests are made to the local police department.