As many of you know, the Legislature adjourned on March 15 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Both Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon have proposed May 4 as a potential date to reconvene; however, that date is still to be determined as new information about the virus continues to be brought to light.
Peace officers experience more trauma throughout their careers than most people do in a lifetime. What others only see in headlines, our officers will likely come face to face with during their career. Without the resources to cope and manage the stress and trauma associated with being in law enforcement, our officers’ health and well-being are compromised. This year, PORAC is standing in strong support of the Officer Wellness Budget Proposal submitted by the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA). This proposal appropriates $40 million out of the general fund to support peace officer wellness and mental health programs across California.
On Monday, May 4, the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) will host the 44th annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony at the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument on State Capitol grounds in Sacramento. The ceremony serves to formally enroll peace officers who have died in the line of duty the previous year, to pay tribute to the over 1,600 officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice since California became a state and to honor the families left behind. Our law enforcement family continues to experience tremendous loss, and this ceremony helps honor those who laid down their lives and ensure their legacy will live on.
Police transparency has been at the center of discussion, controversy and legislation since the introduction of SB 1286 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) in 2017. During that time, we have seen bills introduced requiring the release of investigatory files, opening disciplinary hearings to the public and releasing information from an officer’s personnel file. PORAC, along with other law enforcement groups, has worked diligently to bring our thoughts, concerns and ideas to the table to reach reasonable solutions to address these issues.
This January marks the second year of a two-year legislative session. This means that we will see many of our 2019 priority bills moving through committee and floor hearings once again. Last year, there were over 3,000 bills introduced in the state Assembly and state Senate. On average, each bill is amended three or four times, so that means PORAC leadership, along with Aaron Read & Associates, reviewed over 10,000 bills, looking for those that have an impact on our members.
For four years now, we have talked about how drastically the pendulum has swung from California’s “tough on crime” stance of the 1980s and ’90s to the current position of releasing violent criminals, full officer transparency, increased use of body cameras and the intent to prosecute officers and send them to prison. But nothing speaks more to that swing than the high-profile election of Chesa Boudin, the new district attorney in the City and County of San Francisco.
On September 13, the Legislature adjourned the first half of the 2019–2020 session. Governor Newsom had until midnight on October 13 to sign or veto the multitude of bills that were sent to him. If he did not take action on a bill, it automatically became law without his signature. This year, 3,033 bills were introduced, of which 1,169 have been chaptered (signed by the governor) and 172 were vetoed. The remaining 1,692 bills are either inactive, dead, made into two-year bills or are resolutions that, by law, do not have to go to the governor. If a bill was made into a two-year bill, it means the measure is taken out of consideration during the first year of a regular session with the intent of taking it up again during the second year.
On September 12, Governor Newsom signed into law PORAC’s sponsored bill, SB 230 by Senator Anna Caballero (D–Salinas). PORAC, along with ARA and other stakeholders in our state, was there to witness the signing of the bill, which was 15 months in the making. SB 230 builds on California’s already rigorous officer training requirements and is the first bill to mandate additional statewide training in specific categories such as de-escalation, interacting with vulnerable populations and an officer’s duty to intercede.