Police Groups Object to Police Reforms Monday at State Capitol

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.

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  1. Tia Will

    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.”

    I see this as an invalid complaint. There is always “the same amount of time” whether you retrain or you don’t.

    A prudent approach would be to start the new policy training with incoming officers and to gradually incorporate experienced officers in the new trainings. I see this as analogous to a new surgical technique. Not everyone trains at the same time, and the technique is gradually incorporated.


  2. PhilColeman

    The quoted comment should not have been advanced by those opposed to the measure. The phrasing quoted leaves a lot to be desired, but the cost implications and and staffing requirements are VALID.

    For sure, there will be enormous costs involved to do such a sweeping training effort state-wide. That’s a problem for the proponents to resolve. The law enforcement community estimates the cost estimates (tens, maybe even hundreds, of millions of dollars annually) and the legislature can then determine how these supplemental training funds be found.

    Of course, this will not happen. The current political climate will not support the level of revenue requirement for this bill to become reality. There could be fee and tax measures created or increased to fund the measure, but that won’t happen. Ergo, this bill will not pass, and the bill passes with no funding, no training will take place. The new law, becomes a paper tiger.

    For field officers to be relieved from their critical assigned duties with protecting the public (24/7), you have to find suitable replacements for these same persons so they can go into a classroom as a duty assignment. There are no reserve armies (and I do mean armies) of stand-by officers to plug the holes. Almost every department currently many authorized slots empty, and can barely can put out a sufficient deployment to meet current calls for for service and provide marginal safety to other officers.  I  openly invite anyone to publicly refute this crucial element.

    You can pay these field officers overtime to attend these classes on their own time, and salary-related costs skyrocket fifty percent, or more. Then there is the issue of scheduled training sessions being interrupted by subpoenaed officers having to answer a court summons. Schedule make-up classes for those who missed hours or days, yet must meet state law compliance anyway. Scheduled vacations, emergency leave, long-term illness or injury, the list of scheduled class interruptions goes on and on. AND we get to this every year into perputity!

    Pencil in these dollar figures and anybody will very quickly find that the proposed legislation is literally impossible to enact for economic reasons alone. The legislator writing this bill apparently did not have a pencil, but the bill author went ahead and introduced it anyway. There was some political mileage gained and lot of free publicity, but the economic reality remains–it will never happen.

    1. John Hobbs

      “The law enforcement community estimates the cost estimates (tens, maybe even hundreds, of millions of dollars annually)”

      This is the same excuse every organization uses to keep the status quo.

      The law enforcement community grossly inflates the cost as part of their continuing resistance to community oversight. They don’t think we civilians are decent/smart/tough enough to do what they deem as their job.


        1. Howard P

          Good luck finding credible “costs” ‘of not doing it’…

          A frequently trained, ethical person knows the difference between right and wrong… the moral person just doesn’t do wrong things…

          A lot of ‘frequently trained’ folk are neither ethical nor moral… they just put in their time going thru the training… true story…

        2. John Hobbs

          As a long time customer service trainer for a large metropolitan public works department, I found the the rank and file at least show up for the training and a few care enough to get it. Management almost always begs off, claiming to be too busy…


        3. Howard P

          But David, the specific state legislation is BS… and who oversees the oversight group to ensure they are ethical, moral, and fair?

          There are times in history, that the “reformers” had to be “reformed”… the Inquisition was started out as a “reform”, ‘oversight’ group…

        4. David Greenwald

          Why is the legislation BS?  The current rules for using deadly force center on the officer able to articulate fear one’s own life.  This would change the guidelines rather substantially.

          ”This bill would limit the use of deadly force, as defined, by a peace officer to those situations where it is necessary, as defined, to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person, as specified. The bill would prohibit the use of deadly force by a peace officer in a situation where an individual poses a risk only to himself or herself. The bill would also limit the use of deadly force by a peace officer against a person fleeing from arrest or imprisonment to only those situations in which the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit, a felony involving serious bodily injury or death, and there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person if the subject is not immediately apprehended.”

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