The Creation of the Peace Officer Bill of Rights & PORAC

By Rick Baratta

AB 301: The Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights

Click to read the Special 1976 PORAC Law Enforcement News POBR Issue

In 1973 a bill (AB 1800) was proposed that would extend civil rights to officers, which PORAC supported. In 1974 PORAC amended this legislation and joined with the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL- not a PORAC member) to cosponsor the “Policemans’ Bill of Rights.”

The bill was naturally opposed by management organizations, chiefly the County Supervisors’ Association, and the League of California Cities. The legislation failed, and was rewritten by PORAC and introduced as AB 301.

President Bill Bean appointed Wally Colfer (SEBA) to head up an Inter-Association Liaison Committee, composed of PORAC, CPOA, COPS, LAPPL, Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Association, and the attorney general. The president of CPOA at the time was Leslie Sourissou, a former PORAC member and quiet supporter. He offered a resolution to CPOA supporting in principal the Public Safety Officers’ Procedural Bill of Rights Act, (POBR) but failed to convince their board because of the polygraph exclusion. However, PORAC and their allies succeeded in getting the bill passed out of the Assembly and into the Senate to become a two-year bill, still alive. Now in 1974, the race for governor had Jerry Brown and Huston Flournoy running neck-and-neck. The PORAC president sent a questionnaire to each candidate specifically asking their position on AB 301, including their opinion of the provision in the bill excluding peace officers from having to take a lie detector test.

Brown wrote back that he supported the legislation and was personally opposed to lie detector tests for public employees. Flournoy declined to respond. Brown was elected governor, and the bill eventually reached his desk in 1976, opposed adamantly by CPOA and CSAC because of the polygraph exclusion.

Joe Aceto was PORAC president in 1976 and heavily involved in lobbying the governor to sign the AB 301. Governor Brown hesitated in making the decision because of a great deal of pressure from police management to veto it. Just before the deadline was reached, Aceto received a call from Bill Bean, reminding him that Brown had said he supported the bill, and this had been reported in PORAC News. Aceto turned the office upside down to find the written response and finally succeeded. Aceto immediately sent a copy of Brown’s original response and a copy of the PORAC News article to the governor, just to remind him of his position. He signed the bill and AB 301 became law.

If any class of public employees understands the importance of constitutional rights, it has to be the peace officer. Every search or arrest brings into play constitutional issues surrounding the action.

Peace officers are sued, disciplined, arrested and have had cases thrown out of court because of the officer’s alleged violations of these rights, regardless of intent. Although many enlightened managers supported laws that would offer the same protection to their officers, it took the rank-and-file to make it happen.

Today these rights are taken for granted by many officers. Some merely assume that AB 301 will protect them from illegal indiscriminate actions by their employers. But, as is the case for freedom, rights are hard-won and easily lost without a strong group of people willing to fight to maintain them.

PORAC fought to obtain these rights for all California peace officers, and down through the years re-affirmed these rights through legislation and a strong Legal Defense Plan. It is to be hoped that future peace officers will continue the fight to keep them alive and demonstrate the same obstinate aggressiveness as those cops did a quarter of a century ago.

Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Baratta is a past-general manager of PORAC, past-editor of PORAC News, and was also one of the earliest association representatives.

Capitol Beat – PORAC’s Priorities

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

2018 is the second half of the two-year legislative session, and it is turning out to be quite challenging. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other social justice organizations are sponsoring bills that range from bringing the attorney general into officer-involved shootings and the mandatory release of body-camera footage to the release of investigatory files and the severe restriction of the use of deadly force by officers.

In addition to these bills dramatically impacting the law enforcement profession, PORAC is working diligently to push legislation positively impacting the Peace Officers Bill of Rights (POBR) and the workers’ compensation system, as well as legislation to provide protections in California’s newly created Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory (RIPA) regulations.

Actively Opposed Bills

AB 284, Reporting of Officer-Involved Shootings, by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento): This bill inserts the California Department of Justice (DOJ) into the process of studying peace officer–involved shootings resulting in death or serious injury. This bill also requires the AG to do a study of past actions to determine whether there is a need for change. AB 284 has been stalled; however, it is not dead. We will update you as information becomes available.

AB 748, Disclosure of Video and Audio Recordings: Peace Officers, by Assembly Member Philip Ting (D-San Francisco): AB 748 requires the release of body-camera footage within 120 days, regardless of whether there is still an active, ongoing investigation. It disallows the use of redaction technology to obscure specific portions of the recording for law enforcement purposes and prohibits the use of biometric technology on the video. PORAC, along with the other law enforcement organizations, will continue to fight this measure. As of this writing, AB 748 is sitting in the Senate Appropriations Committee; however, the issue is still very much alive. The sponsors, the ACLU and the Newspaper Publishers Association, are adamant about receiving this information and demand the video as soon as they can get it.

AB 931, “Police Accountability and Community Protection Act,” by Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego): The intent of this bill is to authorize police officers to use deadly force only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death. This bill abandons the “reasonableness” standard adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor.

AB 3131, Law Enforcement Agencies: Military Equipment — Funding and Acquisition, by Assembly Member Todd Gloria (D-San Diego): This bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain approval of the applicable governing body, by adoption of a military equipment impact statement and a military equipment use policy, as specified, by ordinance at a regular meeting held pursuant to specified open meeting laws, prior to taking certain actions relating to the funding, acquisition or use of military equipment.

SB 1421, Criminal Procedure and Sentencing, by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley): SB 1421 states that an officer’s investigatory files will become public after the entire appeal process has been completed and if the officer’s complaint is sustained. The bill deals with the more serious types of complaints, such as discharge of a firearm, discharge of a Taser, blow to the head or neck, serious use of force resulting in death or serious injury, sexual assault, dishonesty, etc.

Actively Supported Bills

AB 2577, Personal Income Taxes: Deductions — Labor Organization Dues, by Assembly Member Adam Gray (D-Merced): For each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2018, and before January 1, 2023, this bill would allow, as a deduction from gross income, an amount equal to the amount paid or incurred for member dues paid by a taxpayer during the taxable year to specified labor organizations.

AB 2823, Violent Felonies, by Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian (D-North Hollywood): This bill would define human sex trafficking as a violent felony and expand the scope of violent felonies in cases of sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration and rape offenses, including if the victim was unconscious, incapable of giving consent due to intoxication or because of a mental disorder, physical disability and more.

Sponsored Bills

AB 1749, Workers’ Compensation: Off-Duty Peace Officer, by Assembly Member Tom Daly (D-Anaheim): Unlike most professions, law enforcement is uniquely trained in how to react to attacks on the public. Co-sponsored by PORAC, AB 1749 would ensure that California’s workers’ compensation system covers peace officers who acted outside of state boundaries and were injured, regardless of their injuries.

AB 3091, RIPA Legislation, by Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego): AB 3091 will clarify the intent of AB 953 by Assembly Member Weber that individual officers not be identified through the data provided for the RIPA report. This bill simply states that the “unique identifying number shall not be subject to the California Public Records Act.”

SB 1086, Workers’ Compensation: Firefighters and Peace Officers, by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego): Co-sponsored by PORAC, this bill extends in perpetuity the window of time during which the family of a public safety officer whose death is attributable to specified work-related illnesses is eligible to collect survivor death benefits. By permanently extending the survivor death benefit eligibility from 240 weeks to 420 weeks, it will ensure that these officers’ grieving families are not deprived of the benefits they deserve due to an arbitrary and unfair timeline.