Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC
Over the last few years, “use of force” has become a familiar term in the halls of the Capitol. While law enforcement is all too familiar with the devastating realities of use of force in your everyday lives, legislators and stakeholders are now becoming a more involved part of the discussion. The introduction of Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty’s AB 931 in 2018 was the start of a new conversation on use of force in the state of California — a conversation that we will likely see for many years to come. AB 931 was amended near the end of 2018 to change the law regarding serious use of force. PORAC, along with most law enforcement organizations, worked quickly and diligently. We had no choice but to play defense, and AB 931 was held in the Senate. However, for the past six months, California law enforcement has been developing legislation to address the concerns of the author and sponsors of AB 931.
Law enforcement’s new legislation, SB 230 — authored by Senator Anna Caballero (D–Salinas) and co-authored by Senators Bob Archuleta (D–Pico Rivera), Bill Dodd (D–Napa), Cathleen Galgiani (D–Stockton), Steve Glazer (D–Orinda), Jerry Hill (D–San Mateo) and Assemblymembers Jim Cooper (D–Elk Grove), Jim Frazier (D–Discovery Bay), Adam Gray (D–Merced), Tim Grayson (D–Concord), Evan Low (D–Campbell), Patrick O’Donnell (D–Long Beach), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D–Fullerton), James Ramos (D–Highland), Robert Rivas (D–Hollister), Freddie Rodriguez (D–Pomona), Blanca Rubio (D–Baldwin Park) and Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) — would establish requirements for departments to adopt use-of-force policies and participate in training that includes comprehensive and clear guidance relating to use of force. When there is a conversation in our state’s Capitol that will directly impact the safety and security of our officers on the street, PORAC cannot simply oppose, we must use our experience and knowledge to present our own alternative solutions. Our solutions have been thoughtfully crafted by law enforcement leaders and attorneys to best protect the citizens of this state and our peace officers against the threats of unreasonable and dangerous bills such as AB 931. Our intent in introducing SB 230 is to take proactive steps toward improving public trust and ensuring our officers can continue protecting all Californians.
Unfortunately, a day after PORAC’s press call introducing our new bill, Assemblymember Weber (D-San Diego) held a press conference introducing AB 392, a resurrected version of AB 931. PORAC has serious concerns with AB 392; including, the violation of an officer’s constitutional right to self-defense. Defeating this bill and ensuring the success of SB 230 will be our top priority this year.
To continue protecting our communities and our peace officers, we hope that SB 230 will build upon existing efforts focused on improving outcomes during law enforcement officers’ involvement in serious use-of-force incidents. It is also critically important for law enforcement to come together to better inform the public and our legislators on the realities of deadly use-of-force situations.
What SB 230 does:
- Amends California law, Penal Code 196, governing an officer’s engagement with a fleeing felon to reflect the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner. Penal Code 196 has not been updated since 1872, so it was time for it to reflect the current court cases referenced above.
- Requires every agency to include provisions in their use-of-force policy that provide guidelines on the utilization of de-escalation tactics, rendering medical aid, an officer’s duty to intercede when observing excessive use of force by another officer, interacting with vulnerable populations, such as the mentally ill and homeless, reporting requirements and more.
- Standardizes California law enforcement’s use-of-force training to ensure each course covers critical topics, including but not limited to de-escalation, rendering medical aid, and the legal standards for use of force.
By the time you read this, over 1,000 bills will have been introduced this legislative session. By the bill deadline of February 22, there will be around 2,000 more. We anticipate more bills relating to law enforcement this year than ever before.
PORAC stands as a unified political force in Sacramento. Each year, PORAC leadership, along with ARA, listen closely to the officers at every level of experience to guide our decisions at the Capitol. As this legislative session ramps up, we will be calling on our officers at the local level more than ever. Our membership is full of knowledgeable and experienced officers who understand more than anyone else the reality of life as a law enforcement officer. It would be irresponsible to not use the most important tool we have at our disposal — our members. We also recognize the critical importance of working closely with stakeholders from every demographic in creating an environment where communities trust the officers who work to keep their streets safe. We are in this together.