Qualified Immunity Bill Gets Amended, As Does Cop Minimum Age

By: Shaun Rundle, CPOA Deputy Director.

Two of the bills that CPOA’s Law & Legislation Committee felt to be of the biggest-impact for 2021, are SB 2 (Bradford-D) and AB 89 (Jones-Sawyer-D). Senator Bradford serves as Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and Assembly member Jones-Sawyer is Chair of the Public Safety Committee in the Assembly. Therefore, both legislators have significant sway in the Capitol, we’ve been able to chip away at both bills and make them more palpable to public safety agencies in California. As the Legislature prepares to take its month-long recess July 16-Aug 16th, these and other remaining bills will be waiting for them for final debates before a September deadline for measures to pass.

SB 2 has been touted all year as “the decertification” bill, but as I conveyed to Spectrum News a few months ago, the bill is so much more than that, and CPOA’s major concerns have been over the qualified immunity provisions. Until recently, the bill lowered the threshold for peace officer “misconduct” to such a level that would open the floodgates of litigation and public records act (PRA) requests. Particularly in the split-second decision making that Graham v. Connor and other cases recognize, SB 2 was set to inflict way more harm than any good that the author or supporters surmised.

Based upon law enforcement’s pushback, including CPOA’s, SB 2 was amended July 7th to its current version. The bill has now removed the provisions authorization persons to bring civil action for instances of death of a family member. The new language also lessons the verbiage that previously turned POST into an investigative agency and now would have POST review recommendations to determine evidence of grounds for decertification.

You can rest a bit more soundly knowing SB 2 is not as harsh as it once was, but CPOA and other LE partners are pushing for more clarifying amendments. SB 2 will next go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August.

On the peace officer education requirements, Bradford’s Senate Public Safety Committee heard an amended AB 89 on July 13th. The bill previously mandated a minimum eligibility age of 25 years old, unless the applicants possessed a BA or advanced degree. CPOA and our partners had grave issues with that mandate and favored SB 387 (Portantino-D). Unfortunately, SB 387 was made a two-year bill and cannot be heard until 2022.

The July 13th amendments to AB 89 now make the minimum age 21 years old and beginning in 2025 would either require those officers to complete curriculum developed by POST or have a BA or advanced degree. AB 89 would now also provide a report to the Legislature by 2023 noting the feasibility of curriculum developed towards an associate degree for transfer.

Based upon these amendments, which bring the bill closer to hiring practices among agencies who rarely if ever hire new officers under 21 years old, CPOA was able to remove our opposition to the bill. It too, will go an Appropriations hearing in August in the Senate.

Other bills waiting to be heard in Appropriations committee next month include:

AB 26 (Holden-D)- Duty to intercede in use of force.

AB 48 (Gonzalez-D)- Kinetic energy projectiles and chem agents usage.

AB 490 (Gipson-D)- Prohibition on holds involving risk of positional asphyxia.

SB 16 (Skinner-D)- Use of force records release.

SB 98 (McGuire-D)- Media access to protest command post.

The Legislature will reconvene from summer recess on August 16th, and all bills will need to be on the governor’s desk by Sept 10th. Governor Newsom will then have until October 10th to sign or veto all bills.