Now that the Obama administration has subtly encouraged critics of police to vent their fury, California legislators have initiated a flurry of at least 20 proposals–according to a count by the Los Angeles Times–to shackle the police and ensure that they are being zealously scrutinized.
Some of the proposals seemed designed to put police in an impossible position. For example, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), a member of the Black Legislative Caucus, joined the ACLU and the NAACP to suggest that officers be prevented from viewing video taken by police body cameras until after the officers in the video had already made a statement. The bill states: “…when a peace officer is involved in an incident involving a serious use of force, the officer may only review his or her body-worn camera video after making an initial statement and report.’
Weber and her group finally reached a compromise on the bill, AB 66, last Thursday, in which most officers could review their videos before making a report.
Weber told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m tired of being shocked. I’m tired of prayer vigils. I’m tired of sit-ins and walks. I’m saying to my members that you tell me every day how horrible, how sad this is. What are you going to do about it?”
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, president of the California Police Chiefs Assn., noted that police are under attack, remarking, “We are more under the microscope.” He said police are willing to consider changes, but pointed out: “We have to be careful we don’t overreact and go too far one way or the other.”
Five different bills involving body cameras for police have been submitted to the California legislature; one to initiate grant funding, one to establish rules for data storage and one as to how footage would be subjected to public records laws.
Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has her own bill, SB 227, which would ban the use of secret grand juries from judging cases in which police have used force, instead using preliminary hearings where prosecutors could decide if they should prosecute the officer. Mitchell is opposed by the California District Attorneys Association, which has stated that the state’s grand jury system monitors itself for fairness assiduously.
Another bill, AB 86, argues that the state Attorney General should appoint an independent special prosecutor to handle use-of-force cases because local prosecutors may be too friendly with law enforcement.