AARON READ AND
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC
A remarkable 2,100 bills were introduced at the 2016 legislative deadline. That brings the 2015–2016 session to a total of around 5,000 newly introduced bills. Every single one crosses our desk here at Aaron Read & Associates. We not only review them, but we also talk to the author, request fact sheets and gather all the information necessary to support and protect our clients — that means you!
In less than 30 days, all the new bills will be eligible for amendments, which we will follow closely to make sure nothing gets missed. As you can imagine, PORAC’s involvement in current and changing law is high. After all, police officers are the people who dedicate their lives to upholding that law and maintaining public order. Our goal is to represent you when it comes to this new legislation. We will work with California lawmakers to protect you, your families and your communities.
Here are some of the major bills we are involved with so far.
SB 1286 (Leno, D-San Francisco): Peace Officer Transparency
This bill would overturn the Copley Press v. Superior Court decision about the privacy of peace officers’ disciplinary hearings and personnel records. Specifically, it would allow the public access to records relating to charges of serious misconduct, including sexual assault, racial or identity profiling, illegal search or seizure, job-related dishonesty, or legal violation of the rights of a member of the public, among others, as well as any use of force relating to death or serious bodily injury. It would also allow those who file complaints alleging misconduct to access basic information related to the complaint — including whether the complaint was sustained, the factual findings and any discipline imposed or corrective actions taken — and allow localities to determine if they would like to hold public hearings and administrative appeals based on allegations of peace officer misconduct.
In the 2006 Copley v. Superior Court case, the court ruled in favor of the employees, stating that peace officer personnel records and disciplinary hearings were private and could not be opened to the public. Because of that decision, the State Personnel Board (SPB), along with many local agencies that were holding these hearings publicly, began closing the disciplinary hearings of peace officers. Soon thereafter, former Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) introduced SB 1019, which attempted to overturn the decision. PORAC, along with several other law enforcement organizations in the state, was actively opposed to SB 1019, and successfully killed the bill in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
SB 1286 is a reincarnation of SB 1019 and then some. It erodes what has taken decades to build — confidentiality of peace officer records — and only serves to diminish the public’s confidence in peace officers and their ability to work in their community. PORAC is strongly opposed to SB 1286 and will continue to fight it. Stay tuned for more information as it progresses.
SB 294 (Pan, D-Sacramento): Public Employment: Military Service: Return to State Service
Current law allows for public employees who have taken a leave of absence for active military duty to return to their previous job, and receive any salary increases and/or promotions they would have received while on duty. In addition, they are entitled to applicable service credits. In order to receive this benefit, proper paperwork must be filed with CalPERS. Unfortunately, most public employees are ill-informed or misinformed on their rights and do not apply for the benefit. SB 294 mandates that a public employer within CalPERS must properly inform its employees of their rights while on active duty. In addition, the bill also requires CalPERS to amend its application form to make it easier to comprehend and complete. PORAC is a co-sponsor.
AB 1927 (Lackey, R-Palmdale): Electronic Citations
Many agencies are now using electronic handheld devices when issuing citations. Once the officer completes the citation and obtains a signature (second contact), it is wirelessly sent to a printer in the patrol vehicle, where, under current law, the officer must retrieve it and bring the exact signed copy of the citation back to the violator. Unlike the triplicate written citation used in the past, the use of this device results in a “three-contact approach.” Although we support the use of handheld devices, PORAC knows that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for both the officer and the stopped vehicle. Each time an officer pulls a vehicle over on a busy street or highway, the officer puts themselves at risk. Increasing the time spent at a traffic stop and the number of times an officer must approach the violator can greatly increase the risk of harm. AB 1927 proposes to amend the specific vehicle code and penal code sections to include an exception that violators do not need an exact signed copy of their citation when an electronic citation is given. Their signature on the electronic device will be regarded as their promise to appear.
As you know, Assembly Member Weber (D-San Diego) introduced AB 66 last year, which would have imposed specified requirements relating to the use of body-worn cameras — including a requirement that the agency conspicuously post its policies and procedures regarding body-worn cameras on its website. The bill would have also prohibited a peace officer from making copies of any footage for his or her personal use, or using a device such as a phone or video camera to record a body-worn camera file or image. AB 66 also had provisions mandating that officers provide an oral statement or written report prior to viewing the camera footage; however, opposition from PORAC, along with nearly every other law enforcement agency in the state, led to amendments in the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee last year to ensure that officers have the right to view the footage prior to providing an oral statement or written report. The bill was then sent to the Assembly Appropriations Committee as amended; however, Assembly Member Weber was not happy with the amendment and held the bill. Therefore, it became a two-year bill and is now dead. In the meantime, PORAC is sponsoring new bills relating to body-worn cameras.
AB 1940 (Cooper, D-Elk Grove): Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures
This is currently a spot bill; however, it will be amended to require agencies to adopt policies and procedures relating to body-worn cameras in collective bargaining — in accordance with the Ralph C. Dills Act, the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and others — if they choose to implement a body-worn camera program. It will also include language allowing peace officers to view camera footage prior to writing a report or providing an oral statement.
AB 2165 (Bonta, D-Alameda): Non-Registered Handguns
Under current law, there has been established a list of non-exempt agencies that may purchase non-roster firearms for use in the discharge of their official duties. The list includes the Department of Justice, police departments, sheriff’s offices, marshal’s offices, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the California Highway Patrol, any district attorney’s office, the military or naval forces of this state or of the United States, and any federal law enforcement agency.
Certain trained peace officers and law enforcement personnel are not on the list, including members of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, PORAC and the State Coalition of Probation Organizations. These categories of peace officers participate in mutual aid situations, task forces, sting operations and arrests — all high-risk situations requiring them to be properly armed.
AB 2165 will clarify Section 32000 of the Penal Code to allow peace officers and law enforcement personnel to purchase and utilize non-roster firearms if they are authorized to carry firearms as a necessary part of their duty and have completed the firearms training requirements prescribed by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
AB 2533 (Santiago, D-Los Angeles): Five-Day Notice
Currently, the California Public Records Act (CPRA) mandates when a law enforcement agency shall and shall not release information about critical incidents within its department. The courts also make decisions regarding the release of information, including audio and video footage. Current law allows for an officer to go to court and file an injunction to prevent the release of the audio or video footage, if their safety is in jeopardy. The judge then decides whether the information should be released based on the level of threat to the officer. In most cases, it is the officer’s responsibility to prove their case, which can take time. Prior to modern technology, it could take up to a couple of days for information to be released; however, with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites, the information can now be released within a matter of minutes. AB 2533 would propose that the officer be notified five business days before the video or audio can be released, giving them time to do any necessary legal preparation.
AB 2611 (Low, D-Campbell): Body Cameras, CPRA
Current law requires every public agency to comply with the CPRA. Current law also provides exemptions when the release of information would endanger the safety of witnesses. Unfortunately, the CPRA does not include body-worn cameras or in-car videos and holds no protections over the release of video footage depicting the serious injury or death of a peace officer while on duty. AB 2611 seeks to remedy this and would amend the CPRA to include the aforementioned protections.
These bills only skim the top of what we will be digging into in the coming months. This is going to a busy last half of the session, but we promise to be on the front lines, battling for you.