Public Safety Handed Both Wins and Defeats as Legislature Wraps

By Shaun Rundle, Deputy Director.

Last Friday the Legislature cast their final votes for the 2017-18 legislative session. Some of those votes were favorable to CPOA, but the majority were not. Our biggest win came in the form of the defeat of AB 931. This was the proposal to raise the legal use of force standard from “objectively reasonable” to “necessary,” and would have put both officers and members of the public at risk. A push for overall policing reform, however, did win the day and bills to publicly release peace officer personnel records and body-worn camera footage made their way to the Governor’s desk.

Lobbying efforts on these various public safety bills went well into the final day of the legislative session on August 31st. Last minute committee hearings were scheduled, and legislation without enough supporting votes was brought back up for reconsideration. In the end, CPOA’s concern over bills that usurped local authority were viewed as resisting necessary transparency measures by civil rights groups. We responded by echoing our 2018 Legislative Platform by noting that law enforcement does not oppose transparency, or the rule of law, but we will oppose attempts to control local agency autonomy over decisions and operations that best serve California’s communities.

Here are some CPOA-opposed bills that passed to Legislature and await action on Governor Brown’s desk:

  • AB 748 (Ting-D)-Allows for public disclosure of audio or video recordings of a critical incident (defined as involving use of force, violation of law, or violation of agency policy).
  • SB 978 (Bradford-D)-Requires POST and every local LE agency to post on their website all documents and materials that would otherwise be requested through a Public Records Act request.
  • SB 1421 (Skinner-D)-Makes specified peace officer personnel records subject to Public Records Act disclosure.

2018 was not without some public safety wins in the policy arena, however. We were able to defeat AB 931, Assembly member Shirley Weber’s attempt to challenge the legal standard for lethal force encounters. Since its introduction last April, AB 931 has been the most heated and debated public safety bill working through the Legislature. CPOA leadership lobbied this bill thoroughly, and our legal experts testified in all committee hearings the bill went through. Ultimately, AB 931 did not have the supporting votes it needed in the Senate, and the Senate President Pro Tem acknowledged that they will try again in 2019, with a measure that ensures both the safety of the public and peace officers. This is a great acknowledgement that an understanding that AB 931 would jeopardize officer safety was an important component of legislative negotiations.

Until the September 30th deadline for the Governor to sign or veto all bills on his desk, CPOA will communicate our continued concern over opposed bills. I am not under the disillusion though that police reform groups will view 2018 as the tipping point for law enforcement transparency, and I know that 2019 will be another year of playing strong defense at the Capitol.