California bills would decertify misbehaving police officers

California would start licensing law enforcement officers, create a way to end their careers for misconduct, including racial bias, and make it easier to sue for damages under an expanded version of legislation that died at the end of last year’s legislative session, supporters said. Tuesday.

California is one of four states with no way to decertify police officers, alongside Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

“These are officers who abused their authority and violated the public trust, and we all agree they should be held accountable,” said Sen. Steven Bradford, who carries the most sweeping of several decertification proposals. “We (in California) claim to be a leader in everything – we shouldn’t be an exception when it comes to police reform.”

Bradford’s bill, which leads the Senate Public Safety Committee, would require the state Commission on Standards and Training of Peace Officers to issue each officer with proof of eligibility or a basic certificate . Currently, the state licenses more than 200 professions and trades, including doctors, lawyers, and contractors, but not law enforcement officers.

Bradford’s bill would give the commission the power to investigate officers and revoke their eligibility for wrongdoing, including the use of excessive force, sexual assault, false arrest or report, or involvement in a law enforcement gang. Some of these surveys could be retroactive under his revised proposal.

Police could also lose their badges for “acts demonstrating bias” based on race, religion, sexual orientation or mental disability, among other criteria.

Bradford said in his bill that three out of four unarmed people killed by police were people of color.

“Decertifying police officers (who abuse their power) … is critical to building trust between police and communities and changing the culture of policing in this state,” said Cephus Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate. widely known as Uncle Bobby X whose nephew, Oscar Grant, was killed by San Francisco Bay Area Transit Police in 2009.

Bradford’s measure is co-authored by Senator Toni Atkins, his fellow Democrat who leads the California Senate, signaling his support.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has previously said he also supports the concept, but there are three competing bills awaiting action in his chamber.

Two bills, one by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, himself a former sheriff captain, and the other by fellow Democrat Rudy Salas, both have far more law enforcement representation. strong on the statewide panel considering decertification as Bradford’s bill. Neither includes licensing or lawsuit provisions in Bradford’s bill.

The third bill, by Republican Congressman Jordan Cunningham, would require local law enforcement to carry out misconduct investigations even if the officer resigns. The practice of ending the investigation after an officer resigned allowed questionable officers to simply move on to another department.

A related bill by Assemblyman Ash Kalra would require law enforcement to disqualify officers who have been members of a hate group or have participated in hate group activity or public expressions of hatred, although critics said the bill’s definition was too broad.

The latest efforts come after the death of Bradford’s previous attempt without a vote in August despite national outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the support of artists including Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Robert De Niro and Kim Kardashian West.

Unions and law enforcement associations said again on Tuesday that they support having a way to permanently eliminate bad officers. But they objected last year to Bradford’s proposed composition of a nine-member disciplinary board which they said was biased against the police.

Bradford’s revised bill includes two current or former board members, one less than last year, a change he said was needed because the panel ‘should be a reflection of the community’ .

California Police Chiefs Association President Eric Nunez and unions representing officers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose all said the debate boils down to whether officers deserve what Nunez called a “fair and judicious process”.

“(Un)fortunately, Senator Bradford intends to make a political point instead of creating good policy,” the unions said in a joint statement.

Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said Bradford’s bill “would risk penalizing even the most respectful officers for putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our families and communities safe.” our communities”.

This would make it easier to sue the police and their employers for denying plaintiffs their constitutional rights, but would strengthen the obligation for governments to pay civil penalties against their employees.

The bill says that the current limited immunity from prosecution “too often leads officers to escape liability in civil courts, even when they have broken the law or violated the rights of members of the public… by particular (with) the use of excessive force”.

Bernard P. Love