Capitol Beat – War on Police

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

In spite of our knowledge of the legislative process, we can never anticipate all the surprises that each legislative session brings. PORAC and the team at Aaron Read & Associates (ARA) enter each session equipped with the experiences of the past, homework to address new issues and an understanding of how the future will be shaped. Last session, we had a tough fight with Senator Mark Leno’s SB 1286, which would have opened peace officers’ investigatory files and disciplinary hearings to the public. PORAC and ARA established a working group of rank-and-file law enforcement organizations to oppose the measure. Our efforts were not in vain, as the bill died in Senate Appropriations.

The successes of the working group led to the introduction of AB 1428 by Assembly Member Evan Low. This bill is law enforcement’s response to the highly publicized debate on police transparency. PORAC, along with the other sponsors of AB 1428, wrote this comprehensive measure determined to lessen the divide between the police and the community by providing reasonable transparency without threatening the safety of our officers and their families. As the bill continues to move through each committee with little to no opposition, we are well aware that our work is not done. For every bill PORAC introduces, we are faced with substantially more bills that we must oppose. There are over 20 bills on which we have taken an “active oppose” position, meaning we are testifying in committee, working with others in opposition and meeting with legislators to discuss our serious concerns.

You would have to live under a rock to not realize that being a police officer in California is much more difficult than it used to be. Law enforcement and the media have had major battles over the last few years, and those battles often occur inside the rooms of the Capitol. Beginning with Ferguson, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Black Lives Matter, Men and Boys of Color, and the California Newspaper Publishers Association have taken a lead role in introducing legislation that suggests the police are the problem. Although we cannot argue that all officers are good, we stand behind the truth that for every bad cop, there are thousands of honorable cops. It’s unfortunate that the actions of a select few have created the trending atmosphere of “us versus them.” 

In a recent Fox News article reporting on the increase of police deaths in 2017, Randy Sutton, the national spokesman for Blue Lives Matter and a retired Las Vegas police lieutenant, discussed the hostility and divide by saying that “part of the war on cops [is] the failure of police leadership to step up to the plate and not acquiesce to political considerations when it comes to the safety of police officers. The other part of the war on cops is the failure of the media to post anything positive about police. All they do is put up damaging stories and spin much of that into a narrative that is false and perpetuates a distorted narrative.” The truth is that we want to work closely with community leaders. We want peaceful neighborhoods where families are safe.

Earlier this year, AB 748, a bill relating to video and audio recordings of peace officers, was introduced. The bill posed no threat to law enforcement as it sailed through the Assembly. It wasn’t until the bill was set to be heard in Senate Public Safety in July that the team at ARA was asked by Assembly Member Ting’s staff to meet. At that time, we were handed significant amendments to the bill. The sponsors of AB 748, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and California Public Defenders Association, are now seeking to make changes to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) that would be harmful to all law enforcement. The advocates at ARA made it clear that it is not lost on us that the author moved a fairly innocuous bill through the Assembly and waited until getting over to the other house to drop in this objectionable language.

Not only do incidents such as Ferguson bring about new legislation, but many bills have been introduced as the result of President Trump’s election. In California, Senate leader Kevin de León introduced Senate Bill 54 to combat the Trump administration’s order to broaden deportation borders. SB 54, otherwise known as the “Sanctuary State” bill, would keep law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents. This bill would place certain restrictions on state and local government entities in their interactions with federal immigration authorities. Senator de León has accepted some of law enforcement’s proposed amendments to the bill, but PORAC continues to oppose the measure.

PORAC is listening. We have introduced body camera and CPRA bills in an effort to do whatever it takes to protect witnesses and victims from videos depicting an officer killed in the line of duty. We are working with legislators to educate them on the priorities of law enforcement. We remind the public that our men and women in blue do what many people can’t or won’t do — risk their lives for a stranger. When difficult issues arise, PORAC does not bury its head in the sand, we do something.

“People don’t understand the sacrifices officers make. There are not too many professions where people are murdered while doing their job, and this is one profession where people are killed somewhat routinely in performing their job.” — Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) Research Director Steve Weiss

PORAC Seeks to Strengthen Community Trust with New Transparency Bill

The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) has introduced legislation to increase positive communication between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Numerous discussions between rank and file law enforcement agencies resulted in the drafting of Assembly Bill 1428, relating to peace officer transparency, by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell).

Co-sponsored by CAHP, PORAC, LAPPL, ALADS, LAPPOA, the Riverside Sherriff’s Association and the Los Angeles Deputy Probation Officers’ Union (AFSCME Local 685), AB 1428 is a response to citizen’s concerns over officer-involved shootings, serious uses of force and subsequent legislation that has been introduced in the recent years.

The goal is to develop legislation that deals more responsibly with the critical issue of public safety and provide a better balance of transparency and accountability, while still protecting the safety of officers and victims.

Specifically, this bill:

  • Requires each department or agency to provide written notification as to the status of an on-going complaint investigation;
  • Requires all county district attorneys, who conduct an investigation of an officer-involved shooting, to publicly report the findings of that investigation; 
  • Requires each department or agency to post reports about serious uses of force by their officers;
  • Authorizes an agency or department that employs peace officers to establish a mediation program to resolve biased policing complaints;
  • Requires each department or agency to publicly post the regulations and procedures for investigating complaints made by members of the public and the disciplinary process for each department.

AB 1428 sheds light on police agencies’ internal and external investigations and seeks to increase accountability and communication between law enforcement and the general public. It is scheduled to be heard in Assembly Public Safety on April 18th.

Capitol Beat – PORAC Priorities in 2017

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

PORAC-Sponsored Bill: AB 1428, Transparency for Law Enforcement

The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in addition to other social justice organizations, have been shopping around various legislative proposals to lawmakers and their staff that would open up the internal affairs and district attorney investigations of peace officers. The problem is that these proposals would attempt this by requiring the release of investigatory files, opening disciplinary hearings to the public and releasing information from an officer’s personnel file. PORAC strongly disagrees with this approach, as it does not take into consideration an officer’s privacy or safety. Last year, rank-and-file law enforcement formed a working group and created transparency language that we feel will reasonably bring the public in on the process of complaint investigations and inquiries regarding officer-involved shootings and serious uses of force.

At the time this article was written, the transparency bill was not yet in print. However, because of the breadth of the content of the bill, it will likely be double-referred. This means that rather than going to one policy committee, the fiscal committee and then the floor, it will go to two policy committees, the fiscal committee and then the floor. It will likely be assigned to the judiciary and public safety committees before moving to the fiscal committee — if it is successful.

Once the bill is out in print, we will be setting up meetings with legislators and staff to educate them and discuss the details and purpose of the bill. 

Assembly Member Evan Low, who has stood by PORAC’s side through many issues during his tenure, has agreed to author the bill, and Assembly Member Gipson has signed on as the principal co-author. Additionally, Assembly Members Bigelow, Cooper, Lackey and Santiago, along with Senator Wilk, have all signed on as co-authors. Below is a brief outline of AB 1428 (Low), sponsored by PORAC, CAHP, LAPPL and ALADS.

AB 1428:

  • Requires each department or agency to provide written notification to a complaining party as to the status of the ongoing complaint investigation, at least every 45 days until final disposition
  • Requires all county district attorneys who conduct an investigation of an officer-involved shooting to report the findings of that investigation on their website within 30 days of the conclusion of the investigation
  • Requires each department or agency that employs peace officers to post reports on its website about serious uses of force by its officers within 30 days of completing any investigation
  • Requires each department or agency to post, at least quarterly, a report on its website containing aggregate statistical information on serious uses of force by its officers
  • Authorizes an agency or department that employs peace officers to establish a mediation program to resolve biased policing complaints; this program would allow complainants to speak directly to the officer(s) they filed the complaint about
  • Requires each department or agency that employs peace officers to post on its website its procedures for investigating complaints by members of the public against its personnel
  • Requires each department or agency that employs peace officers to make available for public inspection the rules and procedures that it has adopted for imposing discipline upon its peace officers and providing for the administrative appeal of an adverse decision

RIPA Proposed Regulations

Another priority for PORAC this session relates to legislation passed last year, AB 953 (Weber), which requires peace officers to collect racial identity information for each stop they make. The bill also created the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory (RIPA) Board within the Department of Justice, and tasked it with recommending the regulations and types of data collected by officers.  

Currently, the Attorney General is in the process of reviewing the regulations recommended by the RIPA Board. PORAC is asking that the AG remove the language relating to the use of a “unique identifier” for each individual officer and to reduce the number of data points required to be collected by an officer at each stop. Finally, PORAC believes the type of stops where this data is collected should not include calls for service or violations committed in the officer’s presence. We are hopeful that Attorney General Becerra will agree.

SB 54: “Sanctuary State”

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is attempting to keep law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents with his introduction of SB 54. This bill is one of the highest-profile bills in California, as it goes directly against President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

SB 54 would place certain restrictions on state and local government entities in their interactions with federal immigration authorities. PORAC opposes this measure for three critical reasons:

  1. The bill requires a local law enforcement agency to report to the Department of Justice if they are involved in special immigration task forces. These task forces can be costly and possibly non-reimbursable. Additionally, federal funding to our local agencies could be put at risk.
  2. SB 54 plans to remove people with immigrant status from California jails and place them in an outside detention facility — thus separating them from their families, communities and networks, and creating even more difficulties in the family unit.
  3. The breakdown of local, state and federal partnerships will prevent our officers from being able to do their jobs; therefore, violent criminals will remain on the streets and our families will be in danger.

PORAC’s main concern is public safety. We protect all Californians, immigrants and nonimmigrants alike. By targeting immigrants who are not criminals, we violate all that we stand for and lose the trust we have within our communities.