Capitol Beat – Key Bills Affecting Law Enforcement

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Defeating AB 392 and ensuring the success of SB 230 continues to be our top priorities this year. AB 392 (Weber) was heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 9. The bill was debated for more than three hours. Ultimately, and as expected, the bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote of 6–2. It now goes to the Assembly Rules Committee. At the time of this writing, SB 230 was not yet heard in Senate Public Safety but, as always, we will keep you apprised as developments occur.

While the current use-of-force legislation is the most critical issue we are facing this session, there are still many other bills that we have taken a position on or is sponsoring. Here are a few:

SB 416 by Senator Ben Hueso (D–San Diego) — Sponsor

Workers’ Compensation Presumptions

SB 416 is long overdue and will extend to all peace officers and their families the same protections that have long been afforded to a majority of peace officers in California.

The Penal Code designates individuals as peace officers in many various sections and subdivisions commencing with Section 830 and is based upon their employing agency. The Labor Code, commencing with Section 3212, identifies specific injuries and ailments that are presumed to be work-related (due to those conditions often manifesting over a period of time) and applies workers’ compensation protections to specific classifications of peace officers as defined in the Penal Code. Those Labor Code provisions have not been adapted to include the various classifications of peace officers added into law over the years.

The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certifies individuals as California Peace Officers upon their successful completion of the standardized training guidelines required of all peace officers in this state and their continued training throughout their public service. All peace officers are exposed to the same risks associated with those specific conditions identified within the Labor Code. SB 416 corrects the inequities to public safety professionals by extending the Labor Code protections to all individuals defined as peace officers in the Penal Code. With the passage of SB 416, the employing agencies of peace officers not currently afforded these protections will also be better equipped to recruit and retain quality law enforcement personnel, enhancing public safety and helping to level the field of competition for those agencies. SB 416 is a much-needed fix that will allow all peace officers to be protected as they should.

AB 1600 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D–San Jose) — Active Oppose

Discovery: personnel records: peace officers and custodial officers.

AB 1600 proposes a handful of amendments to the statutory Pitchess process — amendments to Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”) Section 1005 and Evidence Code Sections 1043 and 1045 and repealing Evidence Code Section 1047. The proposed amendments to CCP Section 1105 and Evidence Code Section 1043 make the standard 16-day advance notice requirement for a Pitchess motion applicable only to such motions filed in civil proceedings while shortening to 10 days the advance notice requirement for Pitchess motions filed in criminal proceedings. This creates an unfair due process for an affected peace officer by shortening the time in which they may seek out and obtain legal representation to contest a Pitchess motion, and it likewise shortens the time available for a member’s public agency employer to prepare for and oppose the motion. AB 1600 does not identify the reason for this proposed change and does not provide a justifiable basis to do so other than to speed up the process of seeking confidential personnel file information and make it more difficult for a peace officer to oppose, solely to the advantage of a criminal defendant.

PORAC opposes this measure because its provisions seek only to further erode the confidentiality rights of peace officers to their personnel file information, make it more difficult for peace officers to lawfully protect the confidentiality of that information when disclosure is sought in civil and criminal proceedings and appears to open a loophole whereby requests for relevant peace officer personnel file information could result in the disclosure of patently irrelevant information without affording courts the authority to limit disclosure. In summary, AB 1600 constitutes a continued effort to roll back peace officers’ confidentiality rights.

AB 1555 by Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D–San Diego) — Active Oppose

Police radio communications: encryption.

This bill would require a law enforcement agency that operates encrypted police radio communications or a joint powers authority that operates encrypted police radio communications on behalf of a law enforcement agency to provide access to the encrypted communications to a duly authorized representative of any news service, newspaper or radio or television station or network, upon request. By imposing new duties on local law enforcement agencies, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

PORAC opposes this bill because encrypted communication is vital for surveillance, confidential informants, undercover operations, tactical communications and more.  Allowing the media and public access to encrypted channels could jeopardize investigations as well as the safety of the public and our officers. PORAC recommends that this bill be amended to create a public safety/media protocol on sharing information so that the media and public get the information they need to report on incidents but don’t jeopardize investigations, while also allowing for privacy of all people law enforcement comes in contact with.