California bills would revoke accreditation for police officers who misbehave

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 the 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 withdraw police certification, along with Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

“These are officers who have abused their authority and violated public trust, and we all agree that they must be held accountable,” said State Senator Steven Bradford, who has the most radical of several proposals. of decertification. “We (in California) claim to be a leader in all things – we shouldn’t be an exception when it comes to police reform. “

Bradford’s bill, which heads 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 allows more than 200 professions and trades, including doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs, but not law enforcement officials.

Bradford’s bill would give the commission the power to investigate officers and revoke their eligibility for wrongs such as excessive use of force, sexual assault, false arrest or false report, or the participation in a law enforcement gang. Some of these investigations could be retroactive under its revised proposal.

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

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

“Decertify the police officers (who abuse their power)… Oscar Grant was killed by transportation police in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009.

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

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

Two bills, one from Assembly Member Jim Cooper, himself a former Sheriff’s Captain, and the other from fellow Democratic Assembly Member Rudy Salas, both have much stronger representation of law enforcement within the state panel that is considering decertification as the Bradford Bill. Neither includes the licensing or prosecution provisions in the Bradford Bill.

The third bill, drafted by Republican Assembly Member Jordan Cunningham, would require local law enforcement agencies to complete misconduct investigations even if the officer resigns. The practice of terminating the investigation after an agent resigned allowed questionable agents to simply move to another department.

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

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

Trade unions and law enforcement associations said again on Tuesday that they were in favor of a way to permanently eliminate bad officers. But they opposed Bradford’s proposed composition of a nine-member disciplinary board last year 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 necessary because the panel “should be a reflection of the community”.

California Police Chiefs Association president Eric Nunez and the unions representing officers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose all said the debate was about whether officers deserved what Nunez called a “fair process. and judicious “.

“(Unfortunately) Senator Bradford intends to put forward a political point of view instead of creating good policy,” the unions said in a joint statement.

Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said the Bradford bill “would potentially penalize even the most respectful officers who put themselves at risk to keep our families and communities safe.”

This would make it easier to prosecute the police and their employers for depriving complainants of their constitutional rights, but would strengthen the requirement that governments pay civil penalties against their employees.

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

Bernard P. Love