SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Supporters of legislation allowing “bad officers” to be permanently stripped of their badges were twisting arms and calling out reluctant lawmakers on Monday as they struggled for votes on one of the year’s top policing reform bills.
The measure would create a way to decertify officers found to have committed serious misconduct. It faced an uphill climb on the last day of the legislative session because of vehement objections from law enforcement organizations that the proposed system is biased and lacks basic due process protections.
It got a late boost from celebrity Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted that the measure is needed to ensure moderate, safe police reform and “ensure police officers are held accountable when they break the law.”
She specifically called out Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, urging supporters of the measure to call him. He took ribbing from his colleagues on the Assembly floor, but his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment or to say where he stands on the measure.
It faced a midnight deadline to clear the Assembly and return to the Senate for a final vote.
“We can no longer allow bad officers to transfer to different departments and bring misconduct to other communities,” Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford said last week urging its passage. “Now is the time for legislators to go beyond photo ops and social media, and act on meaningful police reform.”
The measure has faced significant opposition even with this year’s extraordinary momentum created by months of anger and nationwide protests following the death in May of George Floyd while he was being detained by Minneapolis police. Protests again have flared over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Five states currently have no way of decertifying poor police officers — California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Bradford’s bill would create a nine-member disciplinary panel to consider if officers’ conduct is enough to end their careers.
Six of the nine members would be required to have backgrounds opposing police misconduct, while the remaining three would represent law enforcement.
Bradford said the mix is needed to restore community trust in police and the disciplinary process, while organizations representing police said the panel would be inherently biased. They also object to a provision taking away some of officers’ legal immunity.
Police unions and organizations representing police chiefs and sheriffs generally said they support the concept of Bradford’s bill but oppose details in the actual legislation.
Advocates said that shows they weren’t sincere in the first place.
The Legislature separately sent another Bradford bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom that would require youths under 18 to consult with an attorney before they could waive their Miranda rights. Current law has that protection for youths through age 15.
Bradford said the bill “helps build trust in law enforcement and our criminal justice system, something we badly need right now.”
Journalists would be cleared to go behind police lines during California protests and demonstrations under other legislation on its way to the governor.
The legislation would also prohibit police officers from “intentionally assaulting, interfering with, or obstructing” or citing a member of the press.
Democratic Sen. Mike McGuire, the bill’s author, called it a “a balanced approach, a moderate approach that will protect our First Amendment rights and allow the press to do their jobs.”
Republican Sen. Andreas Borgeas worried the definition of press was too loose in an age where anyone can livestream from their phones or purport to be a reporter. That could result in police officers allowing “a very ill-defined group of folks” beyond police lines and “create more havoc.”
The Assembly was also set to take final action on a Senate-approved bill that would ban police officers from using choke holds and carotid holds. A choke hold applies pressure to a person’s windpipe while a carotid hold applies pressure to a person’s carotid artery, which slows the flow of blood to the brain.
Both chambers also were set to take final votes on a bill that would expand on a 2019 law that lifted some of the nation’s most secretive police records by requiring public access to disciplinary records involving investigations into officer shootings, use-of-force incidents and incidents involving officer misconduct.
It would add records of discipline against officers accused of racist or discriminatory actions, or those who have a history of wrongful arrests or searches, among others.
The decertification bill is SB731
The youths’ right to counsel bill is SB203
The journalism protection bill is SB629
The choke holds bill is AB1196
The police records bill is SB776