By David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – In an oddity, AB 127, authored when Senator Sydney Kamlager was still in the Assembly, earned her vote as Senator on Thursday, passing the Senate 30-7 and now sits on the Governor’s desk.
The highly technical bill amends the California Penal Code to allow for persons other than a peace officer “to present a probable cause determination to a judge and seeking an arrest warrant in cases when the suspect is a peace officer.”
The bill, authored by Sydney Kamlager, was supported and co-sponsored by San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin.
“Currently under a state law, uh, the only person who can attest to the probable cause for an arrest warrant of a member of law enforcement is another member of law enforcement,” Kamlager told the Vanguard in a phone interview Thursday following the Senate vote. “As we have seen over the course of last year and in years prior it can be very rare for peace officers to actually do that right to attest, to probable cause and to sign for, the arrest warrant of a colleague.”
Kamlager explained, “We know that most people don’t like snitches including the ‘po-pos’ and so when you have officer involved shootings and when an arrest warrant needs to be issued, currently the only person who can do that, who can authorize it, who can present probable cause for that police officer to be arrested is a another peace officer.”
The concern is that “they are unlikely to do that.”
She explained, “We have heard time and time again prosecutors say, my hands are tied. I wasn’t able to secure an arrest warrant in this officer involved shooting.”
Currently there are nine states that have laws that allow persons other than peace officers to attest to probable cause for an arrest of a law enforcement official. These states include: New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Georgia.
Kamlager took up the legislation after being approached by San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin.
He explained that “there’s a glitch in the penalty” and “[i]t’s preventing district attorneys like me from being able to do my job better because I’m having problems, challenges getting these kinds of arrest warrants, because the only folks who can attest to the probable cause for it are other peace officers.”
District Attorney Boudin testified on its behalf earlier this week.
In a release, he said, “I am thrilled that the Senate has passed AB 127 to reduce barriers to holding police accountable by allowing prosecutors to seek an arrest warrant even when other law enforcement officers are unwilling to assist in the prosecution of a fellow officer.”
He noted, “As the horrific murder of George Floyd reminds us, now, more than ever, we must find ways to ensure accountability for law enforcement officers who break the trust we place in them. As a proud cosponsor of AB 127, I thank Senator Kamlager for authoring it and urge Governor Newsom to sign this important bill into law.”
Kamlager told the Vanguard she does not believe this legislation and the need for it arose out of a specific case.
“I don’t know if his office did it because of any particular cases that they are dealing with,” she said. “I do think it is in response to the grieving of Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others who have been killed at the hands of police.”
She added, “Public outrage has cried out for greater accountability for police violence.”
AB 127 has not received the attention of the two larger bills. SB 2 which deals with police decertification and AB 333, also authored by Senator Kamlager, are changing the law on gang enhancements.
Kamlager indicated there was limited opposition to the bill. “It really was very technical” moreover police officers and more mainstream DAs “are watching a few other bills.”
Meanwhile, DA Chesa Boudin sees it as another way to facilitate his office holding police accountable by removing “a common barrier to police prosecutions.”
Since taking office in 2020, “District Attorney Boudin has enacted numerous measures to ensure police are held accountable for criminal acts, just like any other person in San Francisco,” his office said in a release on Thursday.
Boudin has also also restructured the District Attorney’s Office’s Independent Investigation Bureau “which has now filed charges against five law enforcement officers in connection with four different incidents.”
“We must work to reduce the many barriers—including longstanding resistance from law enforcement—to holding police accountable. I commend District Attorney Boudin for advocating for important policy changes like this one that enable other prosecutors to join him in filing charges when officers break the law,” said longtime police reform advocate and retired ACLU police practices expert John Crew.
“AB 127 would play an important role in making it easier to hold accountable police who abuse our trust and engage in criminal conduct,” Crew added.
“I’m immensely grateful and excited to see AB 127 pass out of the Legislature this morning. We cannot allow police officers who’ve continually victimized Californians to evade accountability by hiding behind procedural barriers or capitalizing off their fellow officers’ unwillingness to speak out. With the Senate passing AB 127 today, this bill is headed to the Governor’s desk and we’re a step closer to forging a path of police accountability in this state,” said Senator Kamlager.
AB 127, the first bill of Senator Kamlager’s legislative package to pass out of the Legislature, now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature, where she is cautiously optimistic that this will become law.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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