By The Vanguard Staff
SAN DIEGO, CA – California’s failure to “police those who police us only further erodes public trust while casting a shadow over the vast majority of peace officers who serve the public bravely, honorably and respectfully,” wrote Julia Yoo, a San Diego civil rights attorney and president of the National Police Accountability Project, in an Opinion in the Los Angeles Times last week.
But Yoo predicted “thousands” of peace officers could lose their jobs under new California law.
Noting “California, which was already nearly the last state to hold our law enforcement officers accountable, should stop competing in this race to the bottom,” Yoo offered the case of Justin Tackett as a good example of what was wrong with how California policed police, and why so many officers may soon be decertified.
“Justin Tackett’s troubling history of warrantless searches, falsified reports and insubordination as a sheriff’s deputy in Imperial County finally prompted the Sheriff’s Department to initiate termination proceedings against him. But Tackett resigned once he learned of the department’s intent and got a job with the U.S. Border Patrol, his peace officer certification still intact,” explained Yoo in her LA Times piece.
But, she added, “It was in his capacity as a federal agent that Tackett, in 2012, shot and killed Valeria Tachiquin Alvarado, a mother of five who was attempting to drive away from him.”
Hopefully, opined Yoo, the Tacketts of the police world will be scarce because California became the 47th state this year to “gain the power to decertify police officers. Legislation that took effect on Jan. 1 allows the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to revoke officers’ certification, disqualifying them from law enforcement employment across California.”
In short, she wrote in the LA Times Opinion, a “California commission with new powers over police licensing recently estimated that it could be on the verge of barring thousands of officers from law enforcement by stripping them of their certification.”
Yoo explained California police officers who committed serious crimes or engaged in grave misconduct “were allowed to avoid termination by quietly quitting and finding jobs in other departments” because the state provided strong legal protections for officers.
Legislation, “in the wake of the George Floyd killing, died in the state Assembly in 2020 amid an all-out campaign of misinformation and fear mongering by police unions, insurers and municipalities,” with opponents “falsely” claiming the bill “would have a ‘chilling effect’ on law enforcement and that officers could lose their licenses for offenses as minor as jaywalking,” said Yoo in the Times.
But, eventually a bill passed after strong community support, said Yoo, noting “community groups, families affected by police misconduct and civil rights organizations and activists (and)…music, entertainment and sports figures signed an open letter urging the governor and lawmakers to approve the bill.”
Yoo added, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce — comprising some 39 million Americans — is regulated by certification or licensing…lawyers and doctors but also plumbers and makeup artists are regulated and investigated by state agencies that oversee their licensing.
“But in California, until this year, cosmetologists armed with cuticle scissors were more vulnerable to delicensing than police officers able to deploy lethal force. That is no longer the case, thanks to a successful push for similar legislation the following year,” Yoo said in the LA Times.
Yoo added, “the newly empowered police standards commission recently estimated that it could decertify or suspend up to 3,500 police officers each year for serious misconduct…approximately 4 percent of the roughly 90,000 officers working in California are expected to be decertified or suspended for serious misconduct such as sexual assault, excessive force and perjury.”
Calling the number “not surprising,” the author opined in her LA Times piece, “Police departments are not able to effectively police themselves, and the thousands of misconduct complaints already fielded by the commission speak to law enforcement’s epic failure to rein in abuses within its own chains of command.”