By Shaun Rundle, Legislative & Region Affairs Representative.
As soon as legislators were sworn in last December for the 2017-18 legislative session, bills were presented on contentious public safety topics. They ranged from sanctuary cities to local OIS investigations, agency equipment usage to Prop 64 cleanup, and nearly everything in between. The first year of the session end this Friday, which is the last day for bills to be passed out of either the Assembly or Senate and sent to Governor Brown’s desk. Although not all bills have made it this far, their topics will no doubt be revisited in 2018.
One of the most public measures in 2017 was SB 54 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. This bill, introduced in December of 2016 conveys communications restrictions between local agencies and federal immigration officials. Sheriff’s departments would be precluded from responding to notification requests by ICE. Receiving pushback from several law enforcement advocates, including CPOA and CSSA, Senator de León has amended the bill a few times, but concerns remain. SB 54 has passed the Senate, and will be heard for debate this week on the Assembly floor.
The Senator and his supporters have falsely argued all year that local law enforcement is engaged in immigration sweeps, and that you are tearing mothers away from their children. CPOA has continuously voiced that such rhetoric is simply not the case, and that the bill focuses on offenders in county jail who wouldn’t be there unless they committed a crime(s). Yet, Senator de León and other tie the issue to federal immigration response, instead of focusing on local public safety. CPOA remains opposed to SB 54.
Another bill that went through a series of changes, but we ultimately defeated, was SB 21 (Hill-D). This bill would have outlawed agency usage of surveillance technology without first having all equipment approved by your governing body at a public meeting. CPOA early in the Spring expressed our concerns to Senator Hill over this approach, and the hamper it would place on agency pursuit of new technology. Additionally, large agencies such as LASD would have roughly 47 contract cities where they would have to go before 47 city or town councils to approve equipment. SB 21 was defeated last month in Appropriations Committee due to its extraordinary local costs.
The issue of body worn cameras continues to be brought up each legislative year. Several bills were introduced in 2015, a few months after news-worthy incidents like Ferguson had occurred. It became apparent right away, that legislators in Sacramento had little grasp of the complexity of the body cam issue. Not only do astronomical data storage costs need to be accounted for, but the public release of audio and video footage as well. This year, two body cam bills have been most prevalent: AB 459 (Chau-D), which is currently waiting the Governor’s signature and AB 748 (Ting-D), which was held until 2018.
AB 459 prohibits public disclosure of footage capturing crimes of rape, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse. AB 748 on the other hand, would have placed an extreme onus on local agency heads by establishing a standard for the release of body-worn camera footage captured by balancing privacy interests and the public’s interest in the footage.
Governor Brown has until October 15th to sign or veto any bills on his desk. So now, the waiting game begins.