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Brown Signs Use-Of-Force, Racial-Profiling Bills, Vetoes Harsher Sentences

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

California police departments will now have to report to the state when a police officer shoots or seriously injures a suspect through use of force. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires law enforcement to compile those statistics, which a Capital Public Radio analysis has found are inconsistent across agencies. The measure takes effect January 1, 2017.

The use-of-force bill was one of 13 criminal justice measures the governor signed Saturday, many of which tighten restrictions, reporting requirements or training for law enforcement. He rejected 11 bills, including nine that would increase criminal penalties.

“Over the last several decades, California’s criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 separate provisions, covering almost every conceivable form of human misbehavior,” Brown said in his veto statement. “Before we keep going down this road, I think we should pause and reflect on how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective.”

Brown vetoed a bill by Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would make it a felony for sex offenders on parole to remove or tamper with their GPS tracking devices. Bates cited four murders in Orange County as the reason for the bill and said she was “very disappointed” with the veto.

“If anyone deserves to serve longer prison terms, then it should be violent sex offenders who tamper with their GPS devices,” the senator said in a statement.

The governor also vetoed bans on flying drones over fires, prisons and schools, and a bill that would make possessing date rape drugs with the intent to use a mandatory felony. A priority of animal rights groups, banning elephant handlers from using bullhooks on their charges, also received the hook.

Another measure Brown signed requires police officers to report the reason, time, and location of every stop they make—a major priority of the Black Lives Matter movement, which marched on the state Capitol to demand the governor’s support.

Critics of the new reporting requirements, including law enforcement groups, have said they will increase both the cost and burden for police officers to do their jobs. Civil liberties groups praised the governor’s actions.

Natasha Minsker, director of the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy, says the signings give California the strongest protections against racial profiling and police shootings in the nation. And, she thinks it signals a shift from Brown.

“In the past few years, Governor Brown has typically signed most of the new crime bills that came to him,” Minsker says. “But today Governor Brown took a strong stance saying enough is enough. Simply creating new criminal laws is no longer making our communities safer or bringing more justice.”

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