Policing the police

A protester stands off against police during a demonstration May 29, 2020, in downtown Oakland. Thousands took to the streets in solidarity with protesters in Minneapolis against the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police earlier in the week. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

By Laurel Rosenhall

WHAT THE BILLS WOULD DO

Lawmakers introduced several bills meant to hold police accountable for misconduct after a Minneapolis officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes, setting off nationwide protests against racism and excessive force. The most controversial of those bills stalled in the Legislature — including a bill creating a system to revoke officers’ law enforcement certification in cases of misconduct, and a bill allowing more misconduct records to be available to the public — but these measures are now up to Newsom to decide:

  • AB 1506 requires the state Attorney General to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians.
  • AB 1196 would formally ban the use of chokeholds and neck restraints by law enforcement.

WHO SUPPORTS THEM? 

AB 1506 has support from public defenders and several district attorneys’ offices, while AB 1196 is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous other civil rights groups. 

WHO’S OPPOSED?

Law enforcement groups opposed early versions of AB 1196 but negotiated changes that made them go neutral. A civil rights organization and a defense attorneys association opposed an earlier version of AB 1506, but Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento says they do not oppose the version on Newsom’s desk.

WHY IT MATTERS 

Many local law enforcement agencies have forbidden the use of chokeholds over the years, but this bill would ban the practice statewide. On the issue of investigating police shootings, this bill aims to address criticism that police too often are left to investigate their own colleagues. By getting the state involved, supporters hope investigations will be more independent. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL:

“None of these bills are easy,” Newsom said as he signed both bills during a Sept. 30 Zoom ceremony with lawmakers and advocates . “But I think under the circumstances, the fact that we were able to get this far is a big deal.”