Amid ongoing tension between minorities and police across the country, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Saturday requiring law enforcement officials to gather and report detailed information about the stops they make.
But Brown vetoed a slate of other crime-related bills, including one focused on date rape and another that would have banned elephant handlers from using bullhooks. In a veto message, the fourth-term Democrat criticized a “multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior” that he said would only make California’s criminal code more complex.
Brown’s signature on Assembly Bill 953, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, followed high-profile deaths of unarmed black men in New York and Ferguson, Mo., and videos of confrontations between police and minorities in other cities.
The bill will require officers to record the reason for each stop they make, the result and the perceived race, gender and approximate age of the person stopped, among other information.
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Proponents of the legislation said collecting data on police stops – and providing it to the California attorney general – would illuminate evidence of racial profiling. Earlier this summer, activists blockaded Brown’s office and staged a “die-in” to draw attention to the bill.
Law enforcement groups that opposed the legislation argued it would hamper officers with needless paperwork.
Brown vetoed 11 crime-related bills, including one that would have made it a felony to possess date-rape drugs with the intent to commit a sexual assault. He also rejected a bill that would have made California the first state in the nation to ban elephant handlers from using bullhooks, as well as three drone-related bills.
In a message accompanying nine of the bills he vetoed, Brown said “each of these bills creates a new crime – usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed.
“The multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.”
The multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.
Gov. Jerry Brown
Brown has often complained about the number of bills sent to him each year, typically several hundred.
“Over the last several decades, California’s criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 separate provisions, covering almost every conceivable form of human misbehavior,” Brown wrote. “During the same period, our jail and prison populations have exploded.
“Before we keep going down this road, I think we should pause and reflect on how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective.”
The date-rape bill, Senate Bill 333, had come to Brown in response to Proposition 47, a ballot measure last year that reduced penalties for certain crimes in California.
Under the proposition, simple possession of date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol was reduced to a misdemeanor from a wobbler, a crime prosecutors had been able to charge either as a felony or misdemeanor.
The bullhook measure, Senate Bill 716, would have made it a misdemeanor for an elephant handler to use or brandish bullhooks or similar devices.
The bill was pushed by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-rights groups that argued bullhooks harm animals and put handlers at risk.
It was opposed by zoos in Monterey and Columbus, Ohio, and some circus organizations. They said bullhooks, when used correctly, don’t harm animals.