CPOA Laid Out AB 931 Concerns to Author and ACLU

By Shaun Rundle, Deputy Director.

Last week members of CPOA’s board of directors joined staff and some law enforcement association colleagues in a meeting with the ACLU and staff of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the author of AB 931. At our request, we asked to sit down and explain how the language of the bill would not only endanger peace officer safety, but the safety of the public in various life-threatening circumstances. While the author’s office wanted to hear more about training and policy considerations, the varying views between the parties involved in the discussion led to skepticism that any changes would be made to the bill.

CPOA and our partners opened the meeting by noting that the language in the bill, will not just put officers at risk, but that the public as well and that will erode the community relations between the public and law enforcement that we all wish to see sustained and improved. Our Law & Legislation Committee chair and Fairfield Police Chief Randy Fenn told Weber’s staff and the ACLU that this proposal could hypothetically mean the end of community and proactive policing, and officers may be directed to respond to calls for service 3-4 to a car and only make announcements or interactions through a megaphone.

The ACLU retorted that they think the “necessary” standard in AB 931 interprets the “objective reasonableness” in Graham v. Connor to mean that a reasonable officer should be using force as an absolute last resort (which of course is already happening). We argued that given the facts that an officer involved in a deadly force encounter knew at the time, his/her actions were necessary, and AB 931 could open so many different circumstances up to open public inspection, skepticism, and perhaps indictment pressure. Their argument practically means that an officer must wait to have a gun pointed at them to engage the subject. There were also scenarios given that if an officer exhausts all the options AB 931 proposes, and then because they didn’t intervene that the subject injures or kills other members of the public, is the officer then liable for letting the crime(s) occur?

ACLU also seemed to flip-flop on whether they think AB 931 takes a hindsight approach. At some points they said it does take that approach, then other times said that wasn’t the bill’s focus. CPOA asked who exactly determines (via the bill) if and when an officer took all other non-force considerations into account. ACLU basically felt those prosecuting officer (therefore most likely the ACLU) would determine that based upon the “necessary” standard, and touted Chicago and Seattle as examples of success stories where agencies took steps to address excessive force.

The meeting concluded, however, with Weber’s staff saying that she’s open and willing to meet with any group that wants to meet with her on this topic, and that in her capacity as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, she would like have discussions about training and funding. The ACLU attorney felt that by raising the standard from “reasonable” to “necessary” that CA agencies will update their policies and training regarding force use.

While on the training topic, that turned to our advocating for POST funding, and how CPOA has several trainings relating to Crisis Intervention, Use of Force, but that not as many cops are able to take advantage of these trainings because POST is practically broke. I’ll be testifying in Budget Subcommittee on these training needs, and they can expect a discussion about this issue.