By Shaun Rundle, Legislative & Region Affairs Representative.
Members of CPOA’s Law & Legislation Committee met via conference call with the CA DOJ regarding a bill that would create a two-year study of officer involved shootings in California. The bill, AB 284 (McCarty-D) replaces a previous proposal that would have created an OIS Investigations team within DOJ, and the new proposal would release findings and recommendations to the public after the study concludes. AB 284 will be heard in Appropriations Committee upon the Legislature’s return from their summer recess in late August.
AB 284 represents a reintroduction of a topic that the State Legislature has attempted to tackle for 2-3 years. Lawmakers believe the nationwide news releases of officer involved shootings represents the misuse of lethal force by law enforcement everywhere. CPOA and our public safety association partners have been attempting to correct this assumption post-Ferguson, while explaining that California law enforcement personnel are the best trained in the world. Regardless of our attempts, Legislators wish to tackle the perceived use of force problem in California, and that is what brings us to AB 284.
When first introduced in February of 2017, it would have created a Statewide Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team within DOJ. That unit would, at the request of local agencies, conduct an independent OIS investigation and later post on DOJ’s website the results of that investigation. CPOA opposed that version of the bill, believing that such an investigative tool needs to remain at the local level, particularly given that DOJ can currently investigate if they see fit. That version of the bill passed the Assembly and was sent to the Senate.
When first heard in Senate Public Safety committee earlier this month, AB 284 took a new form. The bill now requires the Attorney General to investigate a sample or all OIS cases in California that resulted in death or SBI, which occurred between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. Further, AB 284 requires DOJ to make its findings and recommendations of that two-year study available to the public.
In anticipation of the concerns relating to this approach, Chief Randy Fenn (Fairfield Police Department), who is chair of CPOA’s Law & Legislation Committee led a group of committee members on a conference call with DOJ legislative representatives on the current version of the bill. Other participants included Sheriff Jon Lopey of Siskiyou County and Sergeant Angela Voorhees of the California State University, Northridge Police Department.
The concerns raised were:
- Would these cases studied be only completed investigations, or ongoing ones as well?
- California needs to rid itself of the notion that it has an OIS problem, when the majority of cases which are newsworthy come from other parts of the country.
- The release of these studies would open law enforcement up to further public scrutiny and potential civil liability.
- Stakeholders involved in this process may potentially be anti-law enforcement, and that would be difficult to conduct a comprehensive academic study.
DOJ assured our committee representatives that the two-year study will be a document review of closed cases, and no officer interviews will be conducted as such. They simply look to find any statewide incident commonalities, as small as they may be (such as time of day or lighting conditions of when the incidents occurred).
AB 284 will next be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee on August 21st, when the Legislature returns from its month-long summer recess. CPOA will be at the hearing, conveying any further concerns if the bill does not change form before then.