The True Story We Told on Police Reform Defeats: “We Warned You”

By: Shaun Rundle, CPOA Deputy Director. When the Legislature adjourned for the 2020 session on August 31st, several news outlets and editorial boards across the state lamented the failure of various overreaching bills devoted to police reform. Introduced in the wake of events that happened thousands of miles away, these pieces of legislation when first introduced were at least workable. Then amendments were made to cater to legislators’ supporting groups, and that’s where we had a problem. The media touted the power of ‘the lobby enforcement lobby,’ but the reality is and sorry media and Legislature, the truth hurts.

I engaged with legislators on both sides of the aisle as measures were introduced soon after the George Floyd incident. How quickly they seemed to forget that California law enforcement is better trained than other states, and our standards are not taken lightly. Particularly for members of CPOA, as we’re a leadership development association of more than 23,000 cops who want to be better cops. I was continuously told “the legislator wants to make sure we engaged with law enforcement on this issue,” because obviously, reform measures effect everything you do day in and day out.

On a few of the bill topics CPOA had no position or even supported them, such as the original version of AB 1506, which would have allowed agencies to request the AG conduct a review of use of force policy, or conduct an independent investigation of a civilian death. The author’s office thanked us for our support, but then weeks later amended the bill to allow the AG or a ‘state prosecutor otherwise specified or named’ to investigate. This broad and concerning language forced CPOA to switch to oppose position, and that bill currently sits on the governor’s desk. I echoed that concern to KCRA 3 news last month.

On SB 731, Senator Steven Bradford’s effort at decertification of bad cops, again the media misrepresented law enforcement’s opposition to this idea, when in fact we were opposed to the final language inserted in the bill which would have changed PC 832.7 to allow for all use of force records to be released, uphold record retention mandates and do away with sustained findings of certain records. That is why we opposed, and we warned legislators in the Capitol that this was not a road they wanted to go down.

Before the clock struck midnight on August 31st, here are other overreaching reform measures that didn’t make the cut (but we know will come back in 2021):

  • AB 66– outlaw use of crowd control measures that would also extend to civilians disobeying commands.
  • SB 776- Expands the categories of personnel records of peace officers and custodial officers that are subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act and establishes civil penalties for untimely disclosure.

Governor Newsom does have until September 30th to sign bills on his desk, which for public safety does include the final version of AB 1506, as well AB 1196 (outlawing of carotid restraint and chokehold) and SB 629, a bill that CPOA opposes, which would allow loosely defined ‘media’ from gaining access to a command post area at a riot.

We warned the Legislature that far-reaching measures which jeopardize the safety of the public, including of all you who are part of their constituencies, could not be supported and I will continue to push back on them as long as CPOA allows me to do so.