Advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom say California should restrict police use of tear gas and rubber bullets during protests and require regular police training on the First Amendment and lawful assembly.
In June, Newsom asked former East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis and Akonadi Foundation President Lateefah Simon to recommend ways the state could standardize policies for police use of force during protests after demonstrations against police brutality erupted following the death of George Floyd.
Several demonstrators reported being injured or maimed by crowd control tactics. In Sacramento, a mother was left blind in one eye after she was hit with a rubber bullet, according to her attorney.
“Protesters have the right to protest peacefully. Protesters have the right to do so without being arrested, gassed, [and] shot at by projectiles,” Newsom said at the time. “Municipalities have their own approaches and it’s clear to me we need to standardize those approaches.”
Davis and Simons’ new 27-page report includes a list of recommendations the state could implement in an effort to reduce violence during demonstrations.
Some — including a bill to restrict tear gas and other less-lethal projectiles — were introduced by state lawmakers but did not make it out of this year’s legislative session.
Another bill that would have required officers to intervene if they witnessed another officer using excessive force was also held back this year. The new report recommends implementing such a law as well as requiring officers to report misconduct.
It also recommends banning police from using dogs or water cannons to disperse protest crowds.
Other recommendations include clarifying the definition of unlawful assembly and when it can be declared. The tactic is generally by law enforcement used to disperse crowds during protests.
The report also includes general recommendations for local governments and law enforcement agencies. Many focus on improving community relations, particularly with residents and communities of color.
But some recommendations deal specifically with police planning and presence during demonstrations. They include:
- Establishing lines of communication with protest organizers as a strategy to plan, facilitate and de-escalate issues if needed.
- Provide clear communication to the public in advance of known protests and demonstrations.
- Recognize that police presence can have an escalating effect and be prepared to dial up or dial down visibility. For example, the report recommends law enforcement do not bring out armored vehicles or riot gear at the beginning of a demonstration.
“The role of police officers in protests and demonstrations is to keep the peace, and facilitate the ability of protesters to demonstrate peacefully without infringing on their First Amendment rights,” Newsom said in a news release. “Implementation of these recommendations will help ensure our law enforcement agencies are better equipped to respond safely to protests and demonstrations and reinforce the values of community partnership, de-escalation, and restraint.”
Newsom could implement many of the recommendations dealing with police training through executive action over the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST. Others would require legislative approval.
"Dissent and protests are as American as apple pie,” Simon said. “This moment of national reckoning on racial justice will be defined by the impassioned voices for reform and leaders who respond courageously.”
The governor’s office said a similar report for recommendations regarding police use of force would be released in the coming weeks.
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