The guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin has policymakers from Washington to Sacramento taking another look at what role legislation can play in addressing police brutality.
California lawmakers are pushing more than half a dozen police reform bills. One would expand the ban on using chokeholds. Another would train officers to intervene if a colleague is using excessive force.
One of the most high-profile is an effort to create a misconduct review panel that could strip officers of their badges. Law enforcement and community leaders would evaluate officers — who’ve committed certain crimes — on whether they should be decertified. This is Senate Bill 2, authored by State Senator and Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus Steven Bradford.
Bradford tells KCRW, “What it simply does is takes away his certification or her certification to no longer be a police officer. Here in the state of California, we're now only one of four states that doesn't have a fair, transparent decertification process.”
Under the bill, misconduct would be defined as sexual harassment, tampering with evidence, framing a person, unjustifiable use of force, and “any egregious, illegal act that you and I would be in trouble for, our law enforcement officers should be in trouble for as well,” says Bradford.
When asked about critics (like law enforcement organizations) who argue the bill reaches far beyond the police licensing process and would be burdensome on cities, Bradford says, “Fake news. Law enforcement has found a reason since day one to oppose this bill in any form.”
“At what point do you continue to say we need reform, but you continue to oppose every measure that comes before you? I mean, we’ve had 100 years of doing it their way, and it’s clearly not working for Black and Brown people. It’s just a broken system that needs to be corrected.”
A version of the bill, SB 731, was introduced in the California Legislature last year but stalled. Bradford is hopeful that this time around, it will pass. He says the pandemic curtailed last year’s legislative cycle and he didn’t have time for face-to-face meetings with legislators who opposed the bills.
“I’m very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far in the discussions. And I think, again, our colleagues realize after what we’ve witnessed in the last year, there needs to be a change. I mean, Derek Chauvin would have been allowed to keep his badge if, in fact, he was in California right now,” says the senator.
Six other bills are also making their way through the legislature that could affect police accountability:
- Assembly Bill 26, proposed by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would require officers in California to intervene in excessive force situations. It would also bar retaliation against those officers who report transgressions. Bradford says of the bill, “If those three officers in Minneapolis would have just walked over to Chauvin and said, ‘Hey, just stop this,’ Mr. Floyd would be alive.”
- Assembly Bill 118, proposed by current Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), is also known as the CRISES Act. It would create a pilot grant program that provides community-based responses to emergencies (so police aren’t the ones responding). Bradford says those types of interventions could have been used in the case of Isaias Cervantes, a 25-year-old Cuday man who has autism and is hard of hearing, who was shot by LA Sheriff’s Deputies when they responded to a mental health crisis call. “They show up while he’s lying prostrate on the ground and shoot him in the back. Now he’s paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life. Now, if you would have sent a counselor out there, [you] would have had different results,” says Bradford of the March 31 incident.
- Assembly Bill 89, proposed by Assemblymember Reggie Jones Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), would require require cops to be at least 25 years old, or allow someone under 25 to become a cop if they have a bachelor’s degree.
- Assembly Bill 594, proposed by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would require use-of-force investigations to be led by a neighboring law enforcement agency or a multi-agency task force, rather than letting police investigate deadly force cases within their own departments.
- Assembly Bill 603, proposed by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would require local governments to publicly post how much they spend on use-of-force settlements involving law enforcement annually.
- Assembly Bill 490, proposed by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), would ban law enforcement methods of restraint called positional asphyxia, like the one used on George Floyd. Gipson already successfully pushed a bill in 2020 that prohibits the use of carotid chokeholds.
Bradford hopes the bills get passed. “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired of seeing the same wash, rinse, and repeat attitude and actions with law enforcement. And now, we need to reform a system that is totally out of control.”