Currently the state law only requires a very minimal standard of peace officers being 18 years of age and having a high school degree or test equivalent. Departments are able to have standards above the state minimum, but those standards vary across the state and are often below the minimum standard proposed in this legislation
Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) on Monday introduced AB 89, The Peace officer Education and Age Conditions for Employment (PEACE) Act, a bill that would require new recruits for police departments and prison guard service obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or reach age 25 before serving as a peace officer or prison guard in California.
The legislation was crafted in line with studies and brain development science that collectively conclude an officer’s age and education level are key determinants in the likelihood that an officer will use excessive force.
“Excessive force at the hands of law enforcement that leads to grave injury or death not only tears apart families and communities but erodes trust in law enforcement. My community, like many others is all too familiar with police violence and physical force. This data-driven bill relies on years of study and new understandings of brain development to ensure that only those officers capable of high level decision-making and judgment in tense situations are entrusted with working in our communities and correctional facilities,” said Assemblymember Jones Sawyer, who serves as the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee Chair.
“The evidence is clear–the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed until age 25. It is with similar logic that youth must be treated as youth by our criminal justice system,” said Esteban Nuñez, Director of Advocacy at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “This legislation will reduce the risk of unlawful or impulsive use of force by requiring law enforcement officers to have more full brain maturation before entering high-stress, high-stakes situations.”
Cases involving officer and prison guard excessive use of force continue to cost the state and local governments millions of dollars in payouts in trial costs and victim compensation.
“Cities and counties are routinely required to reach into their general funds to pay for acts of excessive force committed by police officers and corrections officers,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “It is imperative that we be good stewards of public dollars, especially during the current pandemic when local government budgets cannot sustain even basic services for residents. This bill will reduce the need to dip into city general funds and protect Californians statewide, all by simply increasing the minimum standards for becoming a peace officer.”
The Assemblymember noted that the new standards would “transform departments across the state and mark a transition in addressing the root causes behind excessive use of force by focusing on a trainee’s ability to utilize critical thinking in dangerous situations.”
Also on Monday, Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer introduced AB 94, which would require all correctional peace officers to receive annual mental health evaluations.
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