Legislation 2021: Just When We Thought They Ran Out of Ideas

By: Shaun Rundle, Deputy Director.

Criminal justice reform since 2014 has been a ping pong game between the Legislature and voters at the ballot box. First Prop 47, then RIPA, then Props 57 and 64, then Senate Bills 978 and 1421 on records release, finally AB 392 and SB 230 on deadly force and the rejection of Prop 20 last Fall. Those are just the most public reform measures. While the public safety profession drowns in ‘reform fatigue,’ you’re asked in 2021 to do more with less. The legislation introduced so far this year certainly serves as criminal justice, while victim justice is left to the wind.

That offender focus has been the trend of recent years, particularly in the Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees. Little to no attempt has been made to strike a balance between offender rehabilitation and accountability. Sentence enhancements have been reduced, drug and substance offenses expunged, and probation terms reduced.

When the pandemic broke late last Winter, the Legislature seemed to focus on its response to COVID-19 and we in the public safety realm took a breather. They’ll finally give law enforcement a break this year, we thought. Then the George Floyd and Brionna Taylor incidents happened, nowhere near California. Yet our legislators quickly took to submitting legislation that outlawed carotid restraints, limited your tools in crowd control response, and wanted to grant media (if you could call them that) access to LE command posts.

Most recently, you may be well aware that various legislators are attempting to reintroduce those failed 2020 measures. Not surprisingly, the 2021 bills are almost identical twins of defeated 2020 bills. There are also some proposals this year that warrant your attention. Our Law & Legislation Committee has reviewed the proposals introduced thus far, and positions have been taken on a handful of measures.

They draw attention to, among other topics, peace officer qualifications, use of force encounters and investigations, bail, and organized theft. More are to come, as the Legislature has until February 19th to introduce all 2021 bills. They will be debated in committees and on the Assembly and Senate floors throughout the Spring and Summer in preparation for a September 10th deadline to reach the governor’s desk.

View these measures and our Law & Legislation Committee positions here.