The California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony last month in Sacramento honored six officers who died in the line of duty in 2017. The names added to the over 1,500 on the memorial were Officers Keith Boyer, Andrew Camilleri Sr. and Lucas Chellew; Deputies Jason Garner, Robert Rumfelt and Bob French.
As always, the ceremony was a moving event that paid respects to officers and deputies who took the oath, put the badge on and became part of the law enforcement community. The families of the fallen deeply appreciate our support and acknowledgment of their sacrifices. This year’s gathering appeared to be smaller than in years past, but no less important. And I’ve been proud to stand up for the families of those we’ve lost in the line of duty, so that they can receive the benefits, support and recognition they deserve. We must rededicate ourselves to the mission of supporting the families of the fallen, which is our solemn duty. We shall never forget.
While we were honoring these brave officers who heeded the call to serve, I couldn’t help but find it ironic that just across the street, legislation was being crafted that would further endanger peace officers or strip away their privacy.
State Senator Nancy Skinner has introduced legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 1421, that would increase public access to finalized police misconduct records and investigations into officer-involved shootings. She has said that transparency in cases of sexual assault, perjury, falsifying reports or planting evidence would reduce the “deep suspicion” many communities have of law enforcement.
PORAC is all for transparency. In fact, PORAC last year introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1428 by Assembly Member Evan Low, which significantly advanced the cause of transparency. The measure, held in Senate Appropriations, would have made public completed investigations into officer-involved shootings and serious use-of-force investigations. The difference between that bill and Skinner’s is that the identities of the officers, victims and witnesses would have been withheld for privacy purposes.
PORAC has met and will continue to meet with Senator Skinner and staff on SB 1421 to develop an agreed-upon system of transparency. However, until the peace officer appellate process statewide becomes more uniform, innocent officers will continue to be punished for simply doing their job. Be sure to read the Capitol Beat article on page 24 of this issue for details on why we oppose SB 1421 in its current form.
Nevertheless, I believe amendments can be made to ensure public safety and law enforcement’s privacy. We will continue to meet with Senator Skinner to find that middle ground to get SB 1421 over the finish line.
We thank the senator for her open-door policy with PORAC and other law enforcement organizations throughout the state. She was very active in reaching out to us as the bill was being proposed. Her approach to crafting legislation, especially of this nature, is a breath of fresh air.
This, however, wasn’t the case with AB 931, a measure that calls for changing the police use-of-force standard from “reasonable” to “necessary,” and only as a last resort.
PORAC adamantly opposes AB 931 and we are rallying everyone to come to our support. Not only would peace officers have to run through a mental checklist before using force but hesitating those crucial seconds before acting could jeopardize their safety as well as the safety of the communities we serve.
What is particularly aggravating is Assembly Members Dr. Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty announced this legislation in April and rolled it out with great fanfare and never sought any input from the law enforcement community. It took them two weeks to get the language of the legislation out and then another week before they met with anyone from the law enforcement community. The only way we found out about the bill was from media calls before the press conference occurred. Weber and McCarty’s eventual meeting with law enforcement appears to be a check-the-box type of meeting just so they can say they met with us.
This legislation is so vague and unrealistic, its ultimate goal is to criminalize and second-guess an officer’s actions related to use-of-force incidents. Since the ACLU wrote this bill, this explains the pandering to the anti-police crowd who support it.
But, typical of our profession, law enforcement is solution oriented. We’re working to create something that’s more reasonable and doesn’t jeopardize officer safety with knee-jerk legislation. We will keep you posted.
All the best. Stay safe.