The majority of states have adopted bills that can end the careers of police officers that have a troubled history. But police unions and other law enforcement organizations across California rallied up to stop it from happening in their state.
According to the Associated Press, lawmakers scrambled to finish their work but failed to pass the law. California, the most populous state, still has no way to permanently remove officers with problematic issues on their record; however, several other police reforms were approved.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the routine method of communication among lobbyists and lawmakers has been replaced by isolation, making a battle of phone calls, colorful graphics, and Instagram posts by law enforcement agencies whose goal is to counter the celebrity tweets urging lawmakers to make changes.
“We ended up, for lack of a better term, playing a game of whack-a-mole,” Tom Saggau, a spokesman for police unions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, said of law enforcement efforts to counter support for what he called a deeply flawed proposal.
Even California Governor Gavin Newsom weighed in in an attempt to rescue the measure, but his intervention fell short of the goal to vote in the new bill before the legislative session ended. Notably, the bill failed hours after Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizzee, another Black man.
Had the bill passed, it would have originated a way to ban officers who committed serious misconduct permanently, but in a counter-argument, law enforcement groups successfully argued that the proposed plan was biased and lacked basic due process protections.
Fortunately, lawmakers were able to ban chokeholds and other neck restraints and require the state attorney general to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed victims. They also pushed for more oversight of county sheriffs, among other changes.
“To ignore the thousands of voices calling for meaningful police reform is insulting,” Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford, who is Black, said after his legislation on removing officers failed. “Today, Californians were once again let down by those who were meant to represent them.”
California is among the list of states that have no way of decertifying officers who commit misconduct; among the list are Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
The removal of California from the list was a primary goal of the California Legislative Black Caucus. It garnered the support of entertainers, including Mariah Carey, Robert De Niro, and Kim Kardashian, who caused a stir when she posted a tweet supporting the movement.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League and San Francisco collectively represent 12,000 officers, and said on Tuesday they are willing to negotiate a “fair reasonable and workable decertification process.” Their main push back of Bradford’s bill was the makeup of a proposed nine-member disciplinary panel that would consider officers’ conduct and if it was enough to end their careers. Six would oppose the misconduct, while the other would represent the side of the law enforcement.