California lawmakers are eyeing new police reforms after having “mild successes” following the police killing of George Floyd and nationwide calls for increased police accountability last year.
Among the proposals is a bill to create a process to strip badges from police officers who commit certain crimes or misconduct. A similar measure failed to pass last year.
“If last year’s nationwide summer protests and calls for police reform have shown us anything, it is that Californians want more than just superficial change,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D–Gardena). “We don’t want to just talk about it.”
Under Bradford’s Senate Bill 2, the state commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) would have the authority to investigate officers and suspend or revoke their police certification. It would also end qualified immunity for police officers, which shields most government employees from civil lawsuits.
The bill would create a nine-member advisory board to make recommendations to the existing POST commission. The commission would also be able to retroactively review misconduct related to deadly use of force, sexual assault, bribery and falsifying reports or evidence.
Advocates say a decertification process would stop rogue officers from bouncing between departments.
“These are officers who have abused their authority and violated public trust. We all agree — they must be held accountable,” Bradford said.
California is one of only four states without such a law, along with Rhode Island, Hawaii and New Jersey. Massachusetts enacted new police oversight laws in December.
The Los Angeles-area Democrat introduced a similar proposal last year in the wake of protests for racial justice and police reform, but it did not come up for a vote on the final, chaotic night of the legislative session.
“We had some mild successes last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, but this is one the major [items of] unfinished business,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D–Sacramento).
More moderate reforms that did pass include a law that requires state investigation into officer-involved killings of unarmed people, and measures to allow local governments to increase police oversight.
Brian Marvel, President of the Peace Officers Research Association of California — the state’s largest police union — said he supports the “spirit and intent” of Bradford’s bill, but he took issue with other parts of it.
“S.B. 2 reaches far beyond the police licensing process and includes policies that would be incredibly burdensome on cities and counties that employ peace officers,” he said in a statement.
Marvel previously complained that the bill Bradford proposed last year would be unfairly weighted against law enforcement. In his latest version of the bill, Bradford had narrowed police representation on the advisory board from three members to two.
Bradford said he believes the bill has a good chance of passing this session with Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins as a co-author. He said recent statements in support of police reform from Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon are also positive signs.
The proposal is named for Kenneth Ross Jr., a 25-year-old who was shot and killed by a Gardena police officer in 2018. Then-District Attorney Jackie Lacey cleared the officer of wrongdoing.
Bradford said the police officer who shot and killed Ross was also involved in three other “questionable shootings” in Orange County before he transferred to the Gardena Police Department.
Ross’s mother, Fouzia Almarou, spoke in favor of the proposal at a virtual press conference Tuesday.
“If this bill was already passed before, this officer wouldn’t have [had] the chance to go to another police department and maybe my son wouldn’t have even been murdered,” Almarou said.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.