George Floyd’s death has sparked a movement toward changing the way police interact with potential suspects. From protests to legislative halls, states and communities have emerged to take up this moment and mark it down in our history books. What started out as a series of protests has morphed into the Black Lives Matter movement.
California lawmakers have drafted a series of 11 legislative bills enacting police reform. California legislators have until August 31 to approve these bills before sending them to Governor Gavin Newsom.
Limitations on Types of Contact and Force
Chief among the types of limitations is a prohibition on using chokeholds. If approved, AB1196 would ban police from using carotid restraints, chokeholds or similar techniques when making an arrest, preventing an escape or overcoming resistance from a potential suspect. It would prevent any mode of transportation that involves a substantial risk of asphyxia.
AB66 would prevent the use of teargas and pepper spray on crowds and other types of “non lethal” types of projectiles. This would ban rubber bullets, which have caused skull fractures in some recent protests, and bean bag projectiles. A bean bag round is a type of baton round, fired from a shotgun. A bean bag round can cause severe injuries or death.
Police Officer Duty to Intercede
AB1022 would create a duty on the part of other officers at the scene to intercede when they witness the use of excessive force. It would also mandate police to immediately report the use of excessive force to their superior.
The bill also creates a mechanism for ending a police officer’s career when that officer uses excessive force. Finally, if an officer fails to intercede, the bill allows that officer to be charged as an accessory.
Journalists: the Right to Investigate
In the face of recent violence used by police against journalists, California legislators have drafted SB629 . The bill prohibits police interference with journalists’ right to investigate. The bill allows journalists access to areas closed to the general public and prohibits police officers from assaulting, obstructing or interfering with a journalist.
Victim’s Rights and Compensation
AB767 would remove obstacles and hurdles currently in place that prevent victims of police violence and their families from collecting restitution and help with medical bills and funeral expenses. The bill would expand the types of crimes that would allow victims compensation.
Current law limits the types of crime eligible for compensation. The bill would also allow the consideration of evidence beyond the police report. This would remove a significant barrier to compensation.
Police Records, Decertification of Officers, and Sheriff Oversight
A trio of bills would change how police are treated after engaging in excessive violence. SB776 would continue to expand public access to police disciplinary and misconduct records.
SB 731 would revoke officer certification once an officer is fired for misconduct or convicted of certain crimes. This would make it harder for an officer to be hired as an officer elsewhere.
AB1185 would allow county supervisors to name inspectors general to oversee elected county sheriffs.
Three other reform bills await legislative approval. SB205 prohibits juveniles 17 years old or younger from being interrogated or waiving their rights before speaking with an attorney. Currently, that age restriction pertains to juveniles 15 years or younger. This would protect the rights of a greater number of younger suspects.
SB480 would prohibit police from wearing military style uniforms. This is in response to the recent events in Portland that frightened so many protestors.
Finally, AB1506, one of the most important of the proposed legislative actions, would allow a state prosecutor to investigate an officer-involved shooting or other use of force that kills an unarmed civilian if requested to do so. That body would also have the ability to prosecute officers in violation of the law.
The Nation Watches With Interest
The eyes of many have turned toward California to see the outcome of these proposed bills of police reform. As the nation takes a collective breath and ponders its next move toward racial and social justice, the clock is ticking to see if emotional determination will be channeled into viable police reform.