Police reform bills working through California legislature


Bill limiting qualified immunity passes through Senate appropriations committee

June 3, 2021

By Robert J Hansen

California law makers are working on legislation addressing qualified immunity and minimum qualifications in Sacramento.

“When police kill and abuse our community members, decertifying them—taking away their badges—is literally the least we can do,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

SB 2 and AB 89 are bills by state lawmakers attempting to address the national call to reimagine law enforcement since the murder of George Floyd.

SB 2 would eliminate certain immunity provisions for peace officers and custodial officers, or public entities employing peace officers or custodial officers who are sued according to the bill.

The bill is sponsored by a coalition of community organizations including Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti-Police-Terror Project and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, California according to a press release.

The new legislation aims to establish new standards and processes to investigate and
determine peace officer fitness and to certify and decertify such officers and a new standard for liability, eliminate the application of certain governmental immunities, and allow wrongful death actions under the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (Bane Act).

Senator Steven Bradford, author of SB 2, said there have been numerous stories of bad-acting officers committing misconduct and not facing any serious consequences for many years and that these officers remain on the force after pleading down to a lesser crime, if prosecuted and convicted at all.

“Allowing the police to police themselves has proven to be dangerous and leads to added distrust between communities of color and law enforcement,” Bradford said.

According to Bradford, law enforcement officers are entrusted with great powers to carry a firearm, stop and search, use force, and arrest; to balance this, they must be held to a higher standard of accountability.

Bradford said amendments negotiated in the appropriations committee were difficult to accept but looks forward to the bill passing next month.

Today’s amendment removed the bills intention to limit protections which protect police from wrongful death cause of action to crimes of violence or moral turpitude.

“Compromise requires us to work together to find in pursuit of the best policy for Californians,” Bradford said. “We must never allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

AB 89 would increase the minimum qualifying age from 18 to 25 years of age would permit an individual under 25 years of age to qualify for employment as a peace officer if the individual has a bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited college or university.

This would not apply to current police officers or sheriff’s deputies younger than 25.

Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, author of AB 89, said that the research-driven bill ensures officers are capable of high level decision making.

Today, Jones-Sawyer said AB 89 advanced to the Senate after a 44-11 bipartisan vote in the Assembly via the PEACE Act, moves to the Senate after a 44-11 bipartisan vote in the Assembly via Twitter.

AB89 improves standards for CA peace officers & marks a transition towards addressing the root causes of excessive force

“Excessive force at the hands of law enforcement that leads to grave injury or death not only tears apart families and communities but erodes trust in law enforcement,” Jones-Sawyer said. “By requiring new peace officer candidates to be more mature and highly educated, the PEACE Act not only professionalizes policing, but also creates a culture that is significantly less reliant on excessive force.”

According to Jones-Sawyer, the new law would transform departments across the state and mark a transition in addressing the root causes behind excessive use of force.

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