Opposition Focuses on Cost of Solving Police Violence, While Proponents Focus on Saving Lives
By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Police groups representing sheriffs to cops on-the-beat raised their collective voices in opposition to any substantial change in how they do business here at the State Capitol Monday – but the Senate Appropriations Committee gave at least a temporary green light to a trio of police reform bills that would significantly change the way police act on the streets in California.
AB 748, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), requires law enforcement agencies to release officer body camera footage within 45 days, unless the agency can show “disclosure would substantially interfere with an active investigation.”
That would differ from what most agencies do today. In Sacramento, the City Council – after the Stephon Clark and other police shootings – mandated the footage be released within 30 days.
The measure, opposed by law enforcement Monday and supported by groups including Black Lives Matter, would allow the recording to be withheld only if the release would jeopardize an investigation, or if the agency had a “reasonable expectation” that the subject’s privacy could not be protected.
But even then, the recording must be “promptly disclosed to a subject in the recording or his or her immediate family, if deceased.”
Families of victims of police violence have complained of waiting for months or even years for autopsy or recordings of what happened to their loved ones killed by police, said supporters of the bill.
AB 572 also was pushed along by the Appropriations Committee – authored by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Orange County), the measure requires annual racial, identify and cultural awareness training “recognizing implicit bias and preventing (that) profiling by law enforcement.” Currently, officers need only take this training every five years.
Law enforcement representatives met this measure with opposition Monday – calling re-training expensive – much as it did the most divisive of the police reform measures: AB 931, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).
AB 931 would change how police use deadly force – it would require police to only use deadly force if there were no reasonable alternatives available and if there was an imminent threat to the officer or another person’s safety.
That’s the opposite of what law enforcement does today – police officers are trained to, literally, shoot first and ask questions later, according to critics. And they are trained to fire kill shots, not wounding shots.
While law enforcement groups somewhat politely objected to the other measures, they didn’t mince words about why AB 931 is a very, very bad idea.
The measure would “require retraining tens of thousands of officers…that would jeopardize the lives of officers,” charged one opponent, insisting there wouldn’t be time to retrain officers.
Jim Touchstone of the CA Police Officers Association echoed that, noting that while police have “similar” goals as the bill’s author and proponents, “this is not that instrument.
“The bill is too costly,” and it would be impossible to train tens of thousands of officers “in a new legal standard,” he said.
Calling AB 931 the “most significant policy change” in policing in decades, police groups warned that the number of police shootings will increase if the bill is approved by the Legislature. They further noted that the cost to retrain officers would be wasted tax dollars and that money should be used instead to fight the fires burning around the state.
Proponents could not disagree more.
The measure was supported by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles), who sits on the committee and was virtually the only committee member to speak up. Bradford, who is Black, noted that supported the measure because it protected “people who look like me.”
Keyan Bliss, with Black Lives Matter Sacramento, told the committee that “force should be the last action not the first action” taken by police.
Bliss said the measure would “save cities the cost of defending police shooting lawsuits and paying for wrongful deaths…it would firstly protect life by forcing police to use de-escalation measures first.”
All three pieces of legislation are now in the “suspense file” and will be voted on when the Brown Administration makes its budget recommendation later in the session.