In summary

We know that enacting legislation to restore public trust in law enforcement is an achievable goal, but it requires listening and collaboration.

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By Brian Marvel, Special to CalMatters

Brian Marvel is president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California,

With the legislative session in the rear-view mirror, now is the time to reflect on this year’s accomplishments to improve law enforcement in California and to acknowledge where more work needs to be done as we drive toward a new session in 2021.

While we work collectively to restore public trust in law enforcement, we know that enacting new legislation is part of that goal – and it is an achievable one, but it requires genuine listening, collaboration and a willingness to walk in each other’s shoes.

Despite losing nine weeks of this year’s legislative session due to COVID-19, multiple public safety bills were rapidly introduced following widespread calls for police reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd. 

Many of these bills were passed and sent to the governor’s desk. Together, these bills will require the Attorney General to investigate all officer involved shootings resulting in the death of unarmed individuals, include implicit and explicit bias into peace officer psychological evaluations, ban the use of the carotid restraint and help to prevent local departments from hiring officers who have a history of serious misconduct. 

We appreciate that the authors of these bills were willing to work together with public safety experts to ensure the new laws would not adversely impact officers’ ability to carry out their duties safely and effectively.  

Recognizing that public safety laws are incredibly complex and merit far greater attention than the Legislature could possibly devote before the end of a truncated session, many bill authors responsibly decided to hold back their legislation to allow greater time for vetting, research and analysis. Others simply ran out of time or were unable to demonstrate enough support to carry the day. 

We look forward to working with the Senate, Assembly and governor next session on these important issues to craft sound public safety policy rooted in research, best practices and education, as opposed to the ebbs and flows of public opinion.  

The Peace Officers Research Association of California has put forward our recommendations for creating these policies in the comprehensive PORAC Policy Platform. The recommended policies are those that we know will improve public safety outcomes throughout the state from our more than 67 years of experience as one of the nation’s most forward-thinking and innovative law enforcement organizations.

We have made progress, but we are also facing new challenges. We cannot allow officers who demonstrate gross misconduct to continue to be members of our law enforcement profession. California’s law enforcement community supports changing the licensing protocol and establishing a fair  process that ensures we have only the best working as officers. 

When the actions of any peace officer are found to be inconsistent with the missions and goals of our profession, the Peace Officers Research Association of California supports reporting such instances to an independent certifying agency like the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission and granting the agency the authority to suspend or revoke an officer’s license to practice law enforcement for proven misconduct. 

In addition to establishing a new licensing protocol, the Peace Officers Research Association of California supports raising the bar with higher recruitment standards and increased training for peace officers, programs that partner officers with mental health and social work professionals when interacting with at-risk members of our communities and more stringent mental health screenings for both prospective and current officers, among others. 

California law enforcement shares the desire of our elected officials and advocacy organizations to improve policing practices to better serve our communities.

What is needed now is a calm and thoughtful dialogue. To make real progress, we must seek counsel from those whose backgrounds, beliefs and experiences are different from our own. As we look ahead to 2021, the Peace Officers Research Association of California is committed to working with our state’s elected leaders to find a path forward that we can all walk together. Californians deserve nothing less.

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