By Kalani E. Gaines
STATE CAPITOL – As the only Black member of the California State Senate, Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) is taking aim at bad cops, introducing legislation that seeks accountability of law enforcement officers.
Bradford and Senate President pro-Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) have introduced Senate Bill 2 (SB 2), which would construct a decertification process for law enforcement officers.
SB 2 requires law enforcement officers to have their certifications revoked following the conviction of serious crimes or termination from employment due to misconduct. SB 2 also strengthens the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act to prevent law enforcement abuses and other civil rights violations.
“This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation amending the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act and to provide a decertification process for peace officers,” the text of the legislation reads.
Existing law is limited, and only authorizes the commission to “cancel a certificate that was awarded in error or obtained through misrepresentation or fraud, but otherwise prohibits the commission from canceling a certificate that has properly been issued.”
“California is able to revoke the certification or licenses of bad doctors, lawyers, teachers, and even barbers, but is unable to decertify police officers who have broken the law and violated the public trust,” he said.
Sen. Bradford argued communities of color are being disproportionately impacted by the misconduct of law enforcement officers.
SB 2 states, “From 2016 through 2019, police killed 621 Californians, and police departments in our state have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation. Of the unarmed people California police killed, three out of four were people of color.”
The killings of Kenneth Ross, Jr., in 2018 and Andres Guardado in June, were both as a result of such misconduct, said Bradford—both killings happened in his district. And the officer who killed Ross had been involved in prior shootings. The officer has not been prosecuted.
“My son, Kenneth Ross, Jr., was murdered on April 11, 2018, by a Gardena police officer who had shot three other people and had no business with a badge and a gun,” said Fouzia Almarou. “If he had been decertified after the first person he shot, Kenneth would likely still be alive to raise my grandson and be with me and his siblings.”
Bradford and Atkins have been able to gain a wide range of support for SB 2 from organizations including: Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti-Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, California Families United 4 Justice, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PolicyLink, STOP Coalition, and Youth Justice Coalition.
In addition to this support Atkins stated, “We look forward to working closely with the California Legislative Black Caucus and other stakeholders to ensure this important bill becomes law, making our communities safer for all Californians.”
Bradford had authored SB 731, another attempt to decertify officers involved in misconduct, but it failed to pass in September of this year. Bradford and Atkins said they are hopeful for the passage of SB 2 to allow California to join forces with the many other states that have made amendments in their law enforcement already.
“Sen. Bradford and I committed to our colleagues and constituents that we would bring back legislation that holds police officers who engaged in serious misconduct accountable,” said Atkins. “With the new session beginning, we are making good on our word.”
Listen to the Vanguard interview with Senator Steven Bradford:
Kalani Gaines is from Stockton, CA and she is currently majoring in Sociology at CSU Sacramento as a third-year student.
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