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Bill Would Move Police Investigations Outside Grand Jury System

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Grand juries would no longer investigate cases in which police actions may have caused the death of a suspect under a bill approved by the California Senate.

The bill would only affect officers accused of shooting or using excessive force on someone who was arrested or detained – and when that person died. So it would apply in a case like Michael Brown’s in Ferguson, Missouri. It would likely not apply in a case like Freddie Gray’s in Baltimore, where the issue is negligence – not excessive force.

Democratic Senator Holly Mitchell says court hearings are more transparent than grand juries. “How prosecutors explain the law to the jurors, and what prosecutors say about the evidence, is subject to no oversight,” she said during the bill's debate Thursday. “The proceedings are shrouded in secrecy.”

But Republican Senator Jim Nielsen says the grand jury system works and will adapt to recent events. “We need to consider: Are we fixing something that’s broken? Or are we just emotionally responding?”

The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 23-12 and now moves to the California Assembly.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio