Playing Defense

Aaron Read and Randy Perry

Legislative Advocates

Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

On August 31, the second year of the California Legislature’s two-year session came to a close. PORAC, working along with Aaron Read & Associates, fought an oftentimes uphill battle on numerous public safety fronts. The intensity of the attention being placed on every police stop meant developing a strategy that protected both private citizens and law enforcement. PORAC’s successes came by playing defense against what we call “bad bills.” Our biggest challenge this year was SB 1286, a transparency bill authored by Senator Mark Leno. The Senator chose not to discuss his idea with law enforcement prior to introduction. PORAC teamed up with a working group of numerous rank-and-file law enforcement agencies to fight this unreasonable measure. The bill died in Assembly Appropriations, which does not mean the end of discussion, but will instead engender genuine discourse between all the stakeholders.

Below is a list of bills PORAC successfully opposed this year. They will not become law.

AB 1812 by Assembly Member Donald Wagner (R-Irvine): This bill would have capped the retirement benefit paid to new members of any public retirement system first hired on or after January 1, 2017, at $100,000 for members whose service is not included in Social Security and $80,000 for new members whose service is included in Social Security.

AB 2753 by Assembly Member Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield): Grove’s legislation required that by January 1, 2017, a public employee labor organization must post an itemized version of its budget on its website, provide each member of the organization easy access to it and respond to members’ questions regarding organizational financial issues within a reasonable time.

AB 2754 by Assembly Member Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield): The idea behind this Assembly bill was that a public employee labor organization would hold an election every two years to determine if the current organization would continue to represent its members as specified.

AB 1820 by Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward): Quirk thought it was a good idea to prohibit a law enforcement agency from using an unmanned aircraft system, obtaining an unmanned aircraft system from another public agency or using information obtained from an unmanned aircraft system, except as specifically authorized.

SB 608 by Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge): The Right to Rest Act would have allowed persons experiencing homelessness the right to use public space without taking into consideration the interest of private businesses, and a civil remedy in the form of lawsuits if their rights pursuant to the Act were violated.

SB 966 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles): This bill would have limited the current three-year enhancement for prior conviction of specified controlled substance offenses to convictions for the manufacture of a controlled substance, or using or employing a minor in the commission of specified controlled substance offenses.

SB 1286 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco): Again, Leno would grant greater public access to peace officer and custodial officer personnel records, and other records maintained by a state or local agency related to complaints against those officers. This bill would have required additional information to be provided in a written notification to a complaining party of the disposition of a complaint against a peace officer or custodial officer, as specified.

The Body-Cam Debate

PORAC sponsored two body-camera bills this session.

AB 2611 by Assembly Member Low (D-Campbell) prohibited a public agency from disclosing a visual or audio recording of the death of a police officer killed in the line of duty.

AB 1940 by Assembly Member Cooper (D-Elk Grove) required a law enforcement agency, department or entity that employs peace officers who use body-worn cameras to develop a collectively bargained policy relating to the use of body-worn cameras.

Bills dealing with body cameras are still controversial and, regretfully, while their introduction prompted discussion, both these bills failed passage. The main concerns we are confronted with when it comes to body camera legislation are policy disputes, collective bargaining, previewing of footage prior to written reports and privacy issues relating to videos. We will see heavy debate around body cameras surface in the next session.

PORAC will continue to be in the forefront of critical issues relating to public safety and will appeal for a better balance of transparency and accountability, while still protecting the safety of officers and victims.

“We know that this issue is not going away,” said PORAC President Mike Durant. “Law enforcement is not trying to escape having a serious discussion, but we certainly want to be a part of it.”