In summary

California’s top law enforcement official Attorney General Xavier Becerra unveiled a series of proposals to reform police departments statewide.

Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, June 16.

Changes on the horizon

Activist Najee Ali, center, kneels with weekend demonstrators in front of the Palmdale Sheriff's station as protesters demand an investigation into the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller, who was found hanging from a tree early Wednesday. On Monday, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra agreed to get the state involved. Photo by Josie Huang/KPCC/LAist via AP
Activist Najee Ali, center, kneels with weekend demonstrators in front of the Palmdale Sheriff’s station to demand an investigation into Robert Fuller’s death. Photo by Josie Huang/KPCC/LAist via AP

In the latest sign that ongoing protests are prompting a serious reckoning with racism and police brutality, California’s top law enforcement official on Monday unveiled a series of proposals to reform police departments statewide — a day after the state’s largest police unions announced their commitment to a similar plan of action

Though many of Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s proposals are already set to become law in Jan. 2021, the recommendations represent a shift from his past resistance to increasing police accountability

  • Becerra: “We cannot afford to ignore the realities faced by black Americans and people of color in this nation and in our state … We have been called to reckon with the systemic failures that cause and allow police misconduct to perpetuate.”  

His proposals include: 

  • Legislation to decertify police officers for serious misconduct and prevent them from being hired by other departments. (California is currently one of five states that lacks the power to decertify cops.)
  • Legislation to rethink the police’s role in responding to homelessness and mental health. 
  • Banning chokeholds and other neck restraints.
  • Banning the use of pepper spray on children in juvenile detention.
  • Replacing “find and bite” and “bite and hold” police dog techniques with “circle and bark.”
  • Using deadly force only as a last resort.

Becerra also said the state Department of Justice will investigate the death of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old black man found hanging from a tree last week in Palmdale just 10 days after Malcolm Harsh, a 38-year-old black man, was found hanging from a tree in nearby Victorville. Both deaths were initially characterized as suicides, but some suspect they were lynchings. 

The department is also investigating the Vallejo Police Department’s use-of-force policies after an officer fatally shot Sean Monterrosa, a 22-year-old man allegedly looting a Walgreens, earlier this month. 

A report released Friday by private consultants found the police department wasn’t properly reviewing use-of-force incidents, suitably investigating misconduct allegations or appropriately disciplining officers.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Monday night, California had 151,452 confirmed coronavirus cases and 5,089 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. Public health officers quit amid death threats, pushback

Orange County Chief Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick resigned June 8, after receiving threats over her order for residents wear to face masks in public to protect against the coronavirus. Quick is one of several local health officers in California to quit since the pandemic began. Photo by Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP
Orange County Chief Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick resigned June 8 after receiving threats over her order for residents wear to face masks in public. Photo by Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday defended the state’s decision to continue reopening, pointing out that hospitalizations and ICU admissions have remained stable even after May holidays and protests brought people together in large numbers.

But he also emphasized that public health officers are the ones deciding how fast their counties should reopen, effectively shifting the political pressure onto unelected individuals who aren’t used to this level of visibility, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports. Seven of California’s public health officers have resigned in the last two months amid intense pushback. Some have received death threats and are forced to travel with security guards. Others have had full-page ads published against them and doctored photos circulated on social media.

  • Kat DeBurgh of the Health Officers Association of California: “We’ve never seen this level of public comment becoming threatening, a personal attack, a questioning of a health officer’s motivation.”

2. California notches major victory against Trump admin

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and President Donald Trump are facing off in a number of lawsuits. Illustration by Anne Wernikoff; photos by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters and Gage Skidmore via Flickr

California on Monday scored a major win against the Trump administration when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge against the Golden State’s “sanctuary” law limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. The move upheld a prior decision, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that local and state authorities don’t have to help enforce federal law.

In other major Supreme Court news: The court on Monday ruled 6-3 to ban discrimination nationwide against gay, lesbian and transgender employees, a practice already prohibited in California and 20 other states. Later this month, the court is also expected to rule on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The decision will affect 700,000 people brought to the U.S. as children, 25% of whom live in California.

3. UC Regents unanimously endorse affirmative action in reversal from prior stance

President of the University of California Janet Napolitano, left, and John A Perez, Chair of the UC Board of Regents speak before the start of the Regents meeting on January 23, 2020 at UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center
President of the University of California Janet Napolitano, left, and John A. Perez, chair of the UC Board of Regents, speak before the start of the Jan. 23 Regents meeting. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

University of California regents on Monday unanimously endorsed reinstating affirmative action in their admissions practices, a stark departure from their 1995 vote to ban affirmative action in the UC system — after which black and Latino enrollment dropped steeply.

  • Regent Laphonza Butler: “The very body that made this decision and helped create this wrong is prepared to do whatever it takes to correct it.”

In 1996, Californians voted to eliminate affirmative action statewide in public education, contracting and hiring. Last week, amid a nationwide reckoning on racism and police brutality, the state Assembly passed ACA 5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore affirmative action practices. If it also passes the Senate, it will appear before voters on the November ballot.

4. Another kidney dialysis measure qualifies for November ballot

The most expensive ballot measure battle in California history is getting a sequel. A union-backed measure to slap private dialysis clinics with physician staffing requirements qualified Monday for the November ballot. A similar 2018 proposition aimed at trimming profits at DaVita Kidney Care and Fresenius Medical Care — the two companies that operate the majority of clinics in the state —— failed after an intense and expensive battle. The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, which has been trying to organize dialysis clinic workers for years, steered the $20 million “pro” campaign. They were massively outmatched by the clinics, who dumped an eye-popping $111 million and won with 60% of the vote.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A final version of the new state budget is still being negotiated, but both Newsom and the Legislature want to run up at least $20 billion in debt over several years.

If everything is a crisis, then nothing is: When we frame persistent social issues as crises, that can paralyze us and lead us to think that the problem is too big to solve, argue Nat Kendall-Taylor, CEO of FrameWorks Institute, and Bill Pitkin, a nonprofit advisor.

Lessons from the immigrants’ rights movement: The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide on the fate of DACA, but regardless of outcome, we should take solace in knowing we’ve been down this road before, writes Sophia Carrillo, a Latino Community Foundation Sacramento Giving Circle member.

Continued attacks on union campaign contributions: Every major corporation and large company view unions the same way — they want them disbanded or hobbled and ineffectual, argues Los Altos resident William Allardice.

Other things worth your time

California lawmakers pass placeholder budget, but changes coming: Newsom likely to scrap cuts for government-funded senior health insurance, some child care programs. // Associated Press

UC Berkeley report finds California prosecutors routinely strike black and Latino people from juries. // Los Angeles Times

California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris: George Floyd’s death is killing me. // Medium

Amid pandemic, public health lacks “lobbying muscle” before California lawmakers. // California Healthline

How hucksters flooded Newsom’s coronavirus marketplace. // Sacramento Bee

Proposed California law would fast-track environmentally sustainable transit. // San Francisco Chronicle

Rep. Devin Nunes’ attorney says he’s at “dead end” in quest to reveal identity of Twitter cow. // Fresno Bee


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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...