Assemblymembers in California’s public safety committee approved a bill that would allow the state to decertify police officers who have engaged in serious misconduct on the job.
Matthew Renda, Courthouse News
(CN) — Senate Bill 2, which would allow California to decertify police officers who show persistent misconduct or incidents of excessive force, passed an Assembly committee Tuesday morning, clearing another hurdle in what appears to be an all-but-certain trip to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.
Widely regarded as the most aggressive police reform bill to be introduced in this legislative cycle, Senate Bill 2, authored by Senator Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena, would create a process whereby police officers can have their certification removed in the instance where serious misconduct is revealed.
“A sensible decertification bill benefits us all,” Bradford said on Tuesday, in front of the California Assembly’s public safety committee. “It will encourage officers to do their job properly and with respect and move us all along toward better policing in our communities.”
Republican lawmakers threw support behind the effort to decertify police officers who commit wrongdoing while on the job but objected to portions of the process stipulated by the bill, particularly as it related to an advisory group comprised of at least seven non-law enforcement citizens.
“The inclusion of two people to the advisory board who have either been subjected to the use of force or have family members who have been injured by police is especially egregious,” said Tom Lackey, a Republican California Assemblymember. “Victims of malpractice do not have substantial representation on medical boards.”
Well, maybe they should, said Bill Quirk, a Democratic member of the committee.
“It’s the best thing you’ve done,” Quirk said regarding the advisory board’s inclusion.
But several representatives of police unions also took issue with select provisions of the bill.
“No one wants to see bad officers removed from law enforcement more than good officers do,” said Edgar Hampton, president of the Anaheim Police Officer’s Association. “But SB 2 is not the right approach.”
Hampton said the definition of misconduct in the bill is “vague and overly broad,” that the process is biased against officers and that parts of the process violate the officers’ rights to due process.
“There are six steps in deciding whether an officer is decertified and then the officer can appeal to an administrative appeal judge,” Bradford said. “I wish the general public had that many bites before they were convicted.”
Others argued the process was fair and represented an appropriate correction from the past several decades when law enforcement was given the benefit of the doubt over members of the general public.
“We are forced to take action as a legislature because anyone paying attention has witnessed a breakdown in trust between law enforcement and communities across this nation,” said Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the Democratic chair of the committee. “Police officers seem to escape accountability for the violence they commit.”
Jones-Sawyer and Bradford also noted that California is one of a few states that does not have a decertification process for misbehaving police officers, as the Democratic-controlled Legislature has long acted deferentially to all public unions, including that of the police.
“We should be embarrassed there are 46 other states that have this process in place,” Bradford said. “California likes to brag about being ahead of the game on police reform, but 46 other states are ahead of us and it’s time to do something.”
The public safety’s approval on Tuesday means the bill is headed to appropriations. Should it pass that committee it will proceed to a floor vote. The Senate has already approved the vote, so Assembly’s approval means it would next head to Newsom's desk.