By Heather Hamilton
STATE CAPITOL – The California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety here has been approving legislation designed to reduce police abuse. These are just some of the measures that passed through the committee in July and early August:
AB 1599 – Peace Officers: Investigations of Misconduct
While SB 1421 introduced by Skinner and passed in 2018 made specified incidents, complaints, and investigations involving peace officers and custodial officers available for public inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act, a loophole has made the bill less effective.
But AB 1599, introduced by Senator Weiner for Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, it will close that loophole. Currently, a law enforcement agent can avoid the public release of misconduct by resigning while an investigation is pending. If 1599 is enacted, law enforcement agencies will be required to complete investigations and publicly release the findings even if the officer has resigned or left the agency.
Cunningham introduced the bill in January of this year, fueled by the allegations of sexual misconduct against Officer Chris Macguire. Three different women alleged sexual misconduct against him, but the records of misconduct were not made available to the public because he resigned during the investigation. Unreleased records means officers remain a risk to the community by leaving and potentially getting hired elsewhere, explained Senator Weiner.
AB 1599 passed to appropriations with a 6-0 vote (1 abstention by Committee Member Morrell).
AB 1196 – Peace Officers: Use of Force
“I can’t breathe” are words hauntingly echoed by too many people of color at the hands of law enforcement. Now, AB 1196 authored and presented to the Committee by Assembly Member Mike Gipson on August 7, would prohibit a law enforcement agency from authorizing the use of a carotid restraint or a chokehold, as defined, and techniques or transport methods that involve a substantial risk of positional asphyxia, as defined. Since 2000, 73 people have died from asphyxiation in California during arrests. 53 percent of those people were Black or Latino. Gipson reminded the Committee this was not new to Black and brown people.
Restraint applied to the neck, by arm or a knee, blocks blood to the head quickly and death or serious injury results. Gipson underscored that one minute of reduced blood flow to the brain leads to unconsciousness and brain damage. There are hard conversations we need to have, stated Gipson, and silence is a form of betrayal, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Association of Highway Patrolman and the California Fraternal Order of Police spoke in opposition. Both expressed concern with July 9 amendments made to the bill. The men voiced concerns about an officer’s right to self-defense and the defense of others.
Committee Member Morelock asked for comment on the opposition’s concern. Self-defense is already in the law, the law lends itself to officers protecting themselves, and to add such language would be redundant when it’s already in the penal code, said Gipson. What threat was Eric Garner posing to the officers, questioned Gipson, when they felt warranted to use a chokehold on him?
The bill passed to appropriations with a 6-1 vote. Committee member Morrell was the single no vote.
AB 1775 – False Reports and Harassment
With more than 1.6 million views of Amy Cooper, and countless of other “Karens” abusing 911 to stoke racial tensions, it’s no surprise AB 1775 passed to appropriations without opposition. If enacted, the bill imposes a fine or misdemeanor charge for using 911 to make false calls for the purpose of harassing members of a protected class.
The bill, introduced by Assembly Member Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, was favored by all, including social workers, teachers, nurses, and 911 dispatchers themselves. Shave Levine from the Paternal Order of Police called to support the bill, expressing hope that 1775 would disincentivize calls fueled by racism and hatred, and protect the integrity of the call system.
1775 passed 7-0.
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