AB 931 Passes Its First Committee Hearing

The CPOA-opposed AB 931 (Weber-D), which also garners opposition from nearly every law enforcement organization in California, received a 5-2 vote in Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. This party-line approval vote sends the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Senator Anthony Portantino (D) of La Cañada-Flintridge. Mr. David Mastagni of the Mastagni Holstedt law firm in Sacramento testified on behalf of CPOA and referenced several court cases that upheld an officers’ “reasonableness” regarding force us, but we will now have to weigh in on the fiscal costs expected if the bill passes.

When the language of AB 931 was first introduced in April, CPOA had problems with challenging the current legal standard-as set fort by the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor-and expressed our frustration not only that the bill was introduced, but how it was introduced. Dr. Weber did engage with law enforcement organizations prior to releasing the bill, which would have a devastating effect on public safety in California. It will essentially do away with proactive policing in the state.

We asked Dr. Weber’s staff to meet with CPOA over our concerns, and Chief Randy Fenn of Fairfield PD and Undersheriff Erik Maness of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department joined CPOA staff in a meeting with Weber’s staff and the ACLU on the first draft of the bill. We questioned not only the challenging of a current legal standard, but also pushed for the funding and training of law enforcement in California. Assemblywoman Weber serves at Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety, so she has quite a say in which state budget funds, if any, get to local law enforcement. Her staff and the ACLU seemed to think that AB 931 presented minor changes to policing and force use, but we obviously disagreed.

About a month later, Dr. Weber herself met with various law enforcement groups in a single meeting, where she and the ACLU presented the same arguments about minor changes. We fired back about the effect this would have on proactive policing, as well as the danger it puts public safety officers and the public in when an officer is second guessing themselves when an incident escalates to force use.

The bill in its current format was heard for the first time in the Legislature this morning in Senate Public Safety Committee. Attorney David Mastagni represented CPOA at the hearing, expressing our opposition and concern over the bill. The hearing, however, was dominated by hundreds of supporting activists from all over the state who traveled to attend the hearing. They presented photos and stories of members of their family and friends who were “killed by police.” After both supporting and opposition testimony was given the committee members were able to give their remarks, which were rather scathing to law enforcement. The profession was accused of being racist and looking for an opportunity to shoot and kill whenever possible. Due to the overwhelming support by pro-AB 931 activists and legislators in the room, those comments were not allowed to be challenged.

The bill passed this committee 5-2 on a party-line vote with all Democrats in favor and both Republicans against. It will now be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee, where CPOA will again convey opposition, this time on the fiscal impacts.

For any questions or comments on the bill, please contact Shaun Rundle, CPOA’s Deputy Director at srundle@cpoa.org or 916-520-2248.