What lawmakers said about bill to set rules around deadly use of force by police
Happy Monday morning! Buckle up for a busy week at the Capitol. Let’s dive right in.
The Assembly gavels in at 1 p.m., the Senate an hour later.
A HEATED DEBATE
Assembly Bill 392 is shaping up to be one of the most controversial bills on the Capitol table this year, and tomorrow it’s scheduled for its first hearing in the Committee on Public Safety.
The bill strengthens the rule by which police officers can use deadly force by upgrading the “reasonable” standard to “necessary,” creating one of the strictest force policies in the country.
The proposal’s main author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, will join actor and activist Kendrick Sampson, fellow Assembly Democrat Jose Medina and family members of individuals killed by police for the event.
“There’s been many situations in California when an officer uses deadly force even when they had other alternatives,” said Lizzie Buchen, legislative advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union of California, which is sponsoring the legislation. “If an officer has alternatives that are safe and feasible and available to them, then it’s not acceptable to use deadly force. This force that is supposed to be protecting us is making people afraid for their lives.”
The bill is likely to make it out of committee. But AB 392’s supporters face a challenge on the Assembly floor. Changing the standard more easily exposes officers to “discipline, civil action or possible criminal prosecution,” a point of contention for law enforcement reps who have instead sponsored their own bill in the Senate.
AB 392’s authors highlight that officers can employ deadly force when there are no other safe and reasonable alternatives and that the proposal new training that focuses on de-escalation strategies.
Senate Bill 230, backed by the California Police Chiefs Association, offers a legislative alternative for lawmakers on the fence about voting for a law that some consider a crackdown on the police. State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, authored the proposal, which encourages local agencies to update their force policies and emphasizes new training initiatives.
It’s a proposal that some Democrats have said is an easy distraction and a bill that Buchen said includes “extremely cosmetic changes to current law.”
“Members of the Legislature might be fooled into thinking they are voting for change, a positive change, when that’s not the reality,” Buchen said.
SB 230’s backers have taken note of the staunch opposition, as reported by Ben Adler of Capital Public Radio.
“Based on countless conversations and many additional hours of research, we’re working on amendments to SB 230 to ensure that we are truly putting forward the most comprehensive legislative solution to effectively reduce the use of force in our state,” the police chiefs association president Ron Lawrence said in a statement..
But Weber’s office, so far, is standing its ground.
“We have a bill that’s pretty bare bones,” said Joe Kocurek, Weber’s spokesperson. “We have as our objective the best policy that saves lives. The necessary standard is the bare minimum for us at this point. If there are ways to finesse it that don’t compromise that particular component, that objective of the policy, then sure. We’re always amendable to changes that will improve the police. Our primary objective is the safety of everyone. We are listening to lawmakers’, community and law enforcement concerns and are always open to improving the bill. We don’t have any proposals for amending the bill at the moment.”
The ACLU of Northern California is organizing the rally for 11 a.m. on the North Steps of the Capitol.
CLOSING A LOOPHOLE
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Patients Right to Know Act, a law that will take effect July 1 and will require medical professionals — physicians, surgeons, podiatrists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and naturopathic doctors — to notify patients if they are on probation.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, wants to take the law a step further. Senate Bill 425 requires hospitals, clinics and medical facilities to notify state licensing boards when medical professionals are accused of sexual misconduct. The proposal mandates notifying the board within 15 days of a reported incident.
“The bill aims to close legal loopholes that can allow a subject of repeated sexual abuse and misconduct complaints to work at a health facility for years because the relevant regulatory board is not notified by the facility of the allegations against a licensee,” Hill’s office said in a press statement.
The legislation also imposes a $50,000 to $100,000 civil fine if a medical institution willfully fails to report the incident, and would give the Medical Board of California authority to suspend an individual while an investigation takes place.
Hill will speak at a press conference this morning in room 447 in advance of the bill’s hearing in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee hearing at noon.
The senator is speaking with former University of Southern California students who claimed sexual assault by campus gynecologist George Tyndall, who was the subject of a Los Angeles Times investigation and whose alleged misconduct helped inspire Hill’s legislation.
HELPING UNACCOMPANIED MINORS
With so much emphasis on the border these days, dozens of bills are awaiting legislative determination to combat national action to curtail immigration or send an unwelcoming message to migrants.
One of the proposals aims to aid unaccompanied migrant children who land on America’s doorstep after the journey north. For the many who don’t have family or points of contact in the country, they get swept up in the foster care and group home system.
A group of lawmakers are congregating in support of Assembly Bill 163 this morning. The legislation requires a group home or foster agency to provide access to mental health and legal services.
Specifically, the bill requires a child welfare representative to meet with each minor in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement to: make mental health assessments, inspect conditions in group homes or foster agencies and meet with resource families.
The two principal authors, Democratic Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens and Blanca Rubio of Baldwin Park will be speaking at the rally scheduled for 11 a.m. on the West Steps of the Capitol.
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