California Forum

Another View: Body cam bill lacked details

Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial “Pushback on body cams just looks weak” (May 3) rightly pointed out that the issue of police body cameras is complex and must be worked out “deliberately and wisely.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case during a recent Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee hearing of Assembly Bill 66. The use of body cameras is a highly complicated issue with many invested stakeholders. A hurried, last-minute deal is not the answer.

I wholeheartedly agree that body cameras and other legislative and community efforts are urgently needed to help restore trust in law enforcement. But as we advance effective, proactive reforms to increase accountability, we must also ensure that these policies are well thought out and address all the practical issues in implementation. The process should also be transparent, with ample community involvement.

During the hearing, many committee members, including me, voiced concerns that there were still some practical issues with the bill that needed to be worked out and we required more time to do so. The amendments essentially rewriting the bill were quickly negotiated during an unusual, brief recess of the committee.

The chairwoman returned to the hearing and briefly described the numerous amendments. Nothing was in writing, no analysis done. This unusual “public” hearing forced committee members to vote on a mystery bill.

The frantic rush to get this bill advanced before the legislative deadline left no room for public input on the proposed amendments that substantially changed the bill. Nor did it provide me the opportunity to thoroughly review the bill as amended. In my brief four months in the Legislature, I have learned that the devil is in the details. With this bill, I was left with more questions than answers.

Regrettably, although I support increased use of body cameras, I couldn’t support this important bill without seeing the language and being able to review it prior to voting.

I was elected by my constituents to vote on complicated statewide policy on their behalf, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I should be able to do so decisively in an open, public forum.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper, an Elk Grove Democrat, represents the 9th Assembly District.