by David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – On Tuesday morning prior to the verdict in the Derek Chuavin trial, the California Legislative Black Caucus members held a press conference calling for action on a comprehensive police reform agenda. Following the verdict, on Wednesday they issued statements on the verdict while continuing to call for reform.
Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Chair of the CLBC and Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, said on Tuesday, “We realize that meaningful and long lasting reform that Californians have sought out is necessary.”
The Senator said that this could not just be one bill or legislative session, that it has to be “an ongoing process.”
He said, “The reoccurring tragedies that are occurring not only in this state but in this country clearly demonstrate that existing laws are not enough to ensure the protection of all citizens from rogue cops, especially in the Black and Brown community.”
Moreover, he noted, “As legislators we have an historic obligation to right the historic wrongs of these racists policies and practices that continue to plague this state and nation.” Therefore, he argued, “Real police reform is needed now.”
His own legislation, SB 2, is the Police Decertification Act.
He told the story of Kenny Ross, Jr., “running across the street to the park where he played, I coached, and he was shot in the back, twice, by an AR 15 by a Gardenia Police Officer, who had been involved in three other questionable shootings prior to joining the Gardenia Police.”
He said, “This bill will create a process to decertify a police officer who has committed serious misconduct.” And would “hold officers accountable for civil rights violations.”
Bradford said, “California is one of only four states that does not have a decertification process.”
“We are also here to call the question—when will we start caring about Black skin? When will we start valuing Black bodies?” newly-elected Senator Sidney Kamlager asked.
“When will we have a month when we’re not citing the names of Black men and women who have been shot because they are Black and because no one seems to care if they will be missed?” she said.
Last year she introduced the crisis act, and it was vetoed. “I have reintroduced it again,” she said.
“It is a grant program that comes with $30 million attached to it, and it would send community-based organizations out into the field to respond to 911 calls, so that law enforcement doesn’t have to do it,” she said, noting that 70 percent of calls are non-emergency calls. “They are calls issuing forth a deescalation or a resolution of a crisis for an emergency with the goal be everyone be able to walk out alive.”
She described an incident from a few weeks ago where a guy, autistic, deaf in both ears and suffering from scoliosis, was shot in the back “because he had an unregulated body and was having an episode. He just needed to calm down. He needed to understand why he wasn’t going to get his snack.” She said, “He was not supposed to be shot in the back and now in the hospital paralyzed with fluid in his lungs.”
“I’m sick and tired of having to come to speak about (how) one of our own is killed senselessly by law enforcement,” the Assemblymember Mike Gipson, Chair of Select Committee on Police Reform, said. “Daunte Wright deserved to live. Deserved to raise his child.
“We raise our collective voices to condemn the murder for taking this young brother away from us,” he said.
“Dammit, I am a man,” he said. “We fight every day to be humanized in this country.”
He told the story of Angelo Quinto, a veteran who served this country, “who was killed on December 26, 2020, in the same manner as George Floyd was killed, right in front of his mother.”
The police, he said, were called “to deescalate the situation, instead they increased the situation by taking his life. They stayed on his neck for five minutes.”
AB 490 talks about positional asphyxiation, including restraints that cut off someone’s oxygen.
He said, “The need for true comprehensive police reform is long overdue. We will not be silenced about injustice.”
Assemblymember Chris Holden said, “The time is now for transparency and real transparency.”
He called for “a real effort on the part of law enforcement to step forward and embrace change.”
Assemblymember Holden said that Chauvin’s crime “was brazen” and “demonstrated a blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life.” He added, “Equally troubling was the conduct of officers who stood by and watched as George Floyd’s life was taken from him by Officer Chauvin.”
California has a duty to intervene in law—as does Minnesota.
“But the question is do the officers really understand when it is necessary to intervene when the opportunity presents itself,” he said. “I’ve introduced Assembly Bill 26, the duty to intervene and report—this bill provides guidelines and techniques that are used to demonstrate when an officer has intervened.”
Under this law, a peace officer can be disqualified from serving anywhere in California and “prohibits an officer from training other officers for three years if a use of force complaint is substantiated.”
Assemblymember Reggie Jones Sawyer, who chairs the Assembly committee on Public Safety, said, “We are always talking about these bad apples, but no one ever talks about the tree. The bad apples had to come from somewhere. Why aren’t we talking about the root of the fruit—which is really bad?”
His bill, AB 89, the Peace Act, “gets to the root of the fruit” by increasing the minimum qualifying age of a peace officer from 18 to 25—though those under 25 may qualify with a bachelor’s or advanced degree at an accredited school.
He pointed out maturity issues with people under 25, “and we give them a gun and literally a license to kill once they get out of the academy.”
He said, “I believe if we get to the root of the fruit, we can change law enforcement forever.”
Sacramento Assemblymember Kevin McCarty added, “We don’t want to be here today, but we must be here.”
He said that some of the bills were signed last year, “but the reality is that we did not have the courage to step up and go far enough.”
One of his bills makes sure that police departments like Vallejo’s do not throw away evidence after an unjust shooting.
“We know that when police police themselves, there is not transparency and a good process at the end,” he said.
Another bill requires police settlements for use of force be disclosed to the public.
“Here in Sacramento we paid out $30 million last year for excessive force for our sheriff and police department combined,” he said.
Finally, he sail, “We want to break down the barriers to allow public safety to be done in a more safe and just way,” by allowing a mental health response on police calls.
The verdict came out later that day.
“While I am glad that a guilty verdict was rendered in this case, there is still work to be done. Many families of unarmed Black and Brown individuals murdered by law enforcement in this country do not get a conviction or an arrest when pursuing justice for their loved ones,” said Senator Steven Bradford.
He said, “True justice is more than just holding one rogue cop accountable. We want this country to honor and respect the humanity of our people as they do everyone else. This is why today and every day after, we will continue to call for comprehensive police reform in California and across this country.”
“While I am glad to hear that justice has been served in this instance, we cannot allow this moment to be relegated to a footnote in our history, said Senator Sydney.
She continued, “Our communities remain unsafe and our bodies remain criminalized. In a society where the police do their job effectively, George Floyd would be alive. I am hopeful that this verdict tips the scales of justice, and that it lives on as a righteous precedent. Protect us!”
“We should expect justice—not have to push and pray for it. It is good that the people of Minneapolis, Black and white, who demonstrated a commitment to justice have finally seen it in the outcome in this case, said California’s Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber and former chair the CLBC.
She added, “Some would say that we have only begun the work. We have made great strides in the last few years, but all of the bills authored by the Black Caucus—from duty to intervene to officer decertification to age requirements for law enforcement recruits—are the instruments of accountability that are still needed to ensure that justice becomes a reality for all Californians.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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