Decertify Abusive Police and Strengthen Civil Liability for Police Violence (SB 731)
Addressing police violence requires re-examining the role of police in our society and re-imagining how to advance public safety by investing in resources for economic development, affordable housing, mental health treatment and crisis that does not involve law enforcement. But we still need to hold police officers accountable for abuse.
We give officers more authority than nearly any other profession - the power to stop, search, arrest, and even use deadly force on members of our community. This power means that the state has a greater responsibility to hold these officers accountable. But California currently does not license its police force – so how can a certificate be revoked if they engage in serious misconduct? Forty-five other states have a process for decertifying officers but California is one of only five states that is unable to decertify officers that commit serious misconduct.
Without a strong decertification process, we have allowed cops who have been fired, or resign while under investigation, to bounce from community to community while still being able to wield their power over others. In 2012, the City of Vallejo paid $4.2 million to settle a case of police brutality by two officers, those two cops are now employed in Richmond, CA.
Californians have a right to be safe from abusive police.
SB 731 will keep communities safe and keep officers who commit misconduct off the streets by:
- Establishing a statewide process to automatically decertify officers who are fired for specified misconduct such as excessive force, sexual misconduct and dishonesty.
- Creating a new accountability division within the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) charged with reviewing and conducting investigations into serious misconduct to independently investigate allegations of misconduct and decertify those officers who resign before they are fired.
- Increasing accountability in various ways, such as requiring law enforcement to report all fired officers, requiring hiring agencies to gather information on reasons for an officer’s separation, and placing officers on a national database for more transparency.
SB 731 would strengthen the Bane Act.
This bill would also make needed changes to the Bane Civil Rights Act to disrupt qualified immunity for police officers in California. Qualified immunity shields police officers from legal responsibility for civil rights violations and makes it nearly impossible for families to successfully sue for civil damages in police abuse cases in federal court.
SB 731 will provide Californians a strong state alternative to the commonly used federal civil rights law to remedy civil rights violations. For the thousands of impacted family members facing the trauma caused by police violence, this change will ensure that families can sue police officers for the killing of their loved one. This opportunity to hold these officers accountable could give families a sense of closure with officers being held at fault for the killings.
ACLU of California, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter California, California Families United 4 Justice, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PolicyLink, STOP Coalition, and Youth Justice Coalition.