California lawmakers on Wednesday introduced three criminal justice reform bills, including one that could end the careers of Bad Apple police officers, an idea that failed last year despite widespread public outrage over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
But even some supporters have made it clear that the Senate-approved bill needs more work in the Assembly to clarify what they called vague language and rebalance a disciplinary council they believe could be biased against law enforcement.
Senators have separately advanced bills reducing the financial bond to $ 0 for lower-level misdemeanors and felonies, and limiting the use of criminal enhancements that can extend offenders’ sentences for many years.
Disciplining police officers would add the country’s most populous state to the 46 that already have ways of decertifying officers. Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island do not have such a law.
Los Angeles-area Democratic Senator Steven Bradford’s bill is designed to prevent officers who have been convicted of serious crimes or fired for misconduct, including violating someone’s civil rights, from relocating in another police department. This would create a new compulsory state license, or certification, which could then be revoked.
“It’s easier to lose a license for giving a bad perm than for killing an unarmed man,” Bradford said, noting that the state already allows many other professions, from doctors to barbers.
The same bill places new limits on police immunity from prosecution for civil rights violations, although Bradford has had to cut that part of his measure when it almost failed to clear a committee senatorial.
The measure was passed by 26 votes to 9 with the opposition of the Republicans, but none spoke against.
“It’s the right thing to do. And a vote against that says I’m okay with keeping the knee on the necks of Californians, I’m okay with keeping one knee on the neck of Americans, especially people of color, ”Bradford said, which is black, in a reference to Floyd’s death.
In the Senate, he recounted his own experiences of being unfairly arrested by the police and listed by name many people who died in such confrontations.
Several fellow Democratic senators have echoed law enforcement objections that Bradford’s proposed nine-member disciplinary council would consist of only two police representatives and seven members with professional or personal backgrounds and opposing the fault of the police.
“It certainly seems to bias in favor of people who are going to be quite skeptical of the police,” Senator Ben Allen said during the 75-minute debate.
Senator Sydney Kamlager countered that the board would not necessarily be biased if it included people of color.
“Have some trust in people,” she said. “News flash: Blacks, Maroons are quite conservative when it comes to law enforcement. We also like to be safe.”
Senator Henry Stern was among those who said the bill’s legal definitions were too ambiguous and needed to be tightened in the Assembly.
Stern also said there was an underlying tension against white senators like him who supported the bill but want improvements – “that it’s kind of racist to ask questions, especially if you’re White”.
“It is unfair and improper of this body to castigate or demonize colleagues on the basis of their race,” said Stern, whose district includes Thousand Oaks and other suburbs north of Los Angeles.
He later added: “We have to make sure that in pursuing the worst – the people who dishonor this profession – we do not also deter young people from becoming good officers, because we still need law enforcement officials. the law. the state of California that has the honor and wants to serve. ”
Senators moved forward the bail reform bill after voters in November rejected a law that would have ended cash bail in favor of risk assessment.
Opponents have said this legally binds the Legislature, since voters have spoken, but Democratic Senator Robert Hertzberg argued that his bill reforms the existing system without terminating it. He said he was implementing an April ruling by the California Supreme Court that judges must consider the ability of suspects to pay when setting bail.
It also provides that the bond must be returned if the criminal charges are ultimately dropped or dismissed or if the defendant shows up to all required court appearances.
It passed a vote in line with the third measure, which would implement a recommendation by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Criminal Code Review Committee that judges should limit their use to more than 150 sentencing enhancements.
He says judges should generally not impose improvements if the offense is not violent; is linked to mental health issues, childhood trauma or previous victimization; or is triggered by a previous conviction, especially if someone was a minor. They should also consider whether the improvement would result in “a disparate racial impact”, if a firearm used in crime was unloaded, and if this improvement could result in a 20-year jail term.