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Reporting Team Investigates Troubling Hires In McFarland Police Department

Nov 15, 2019

In early 2019, reporters from the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism obtained a list of criminal convictions through a Public Records Act request of nearly 12,000 current or former law enforcement officers and people who applied to be in law enforcement over the past decade. The state's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) provided the records through the PRA request but did not provide information on which individuals currently worked in law enforcement or where they worked.

POST referred the reporters to the State Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office. The office sent a letter to the reporters telling them to destroy the list or face legal action. What happened instead was the formation of an unprecedented statewide media collaboration to investigate the list.

I recently spoke with two reporters from the Investigative Reporting Program, Katey Rusch and Laurence Du Sault, about their in-depth investigation into the McFarland Police Department.  You may know the town for the Disney movie of the same name -- about an underdog high school cross country team that goes on to win a state championship. But McFarland is in the spotlight now for something far less inspiring -- a reputation for hiring cops with dubious, sometimes criminal pasts.