Newsom policing advisers support legislative effort requiring officers to intervene

By Jeremy B. White 10/13/2020 03:55 PM EDT

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s policing advisers say California legislators should take up bills compelling peace officers to intervene or report on fellow officers who use excessive force.

As protests over police violence and racial inequality engulfed the country this year, Newsom enlisted former East Palo Alto police chief Ron Davis and BART Board President Lateefah Simon to examine policing in California and release recommendations.

Their conclusions, released Tuesday, included multiple potential bill topics that stalled in the Legislature this year, signaling those bills could return next year with more support from the Newsom administration. In addition to suggesting legislators take on excessive force, the report raised the prospect of reining in tear gas and rubber bullets during protests.

Why it matters: George Floyd’s brutal death galvanized police reform activists across the country and led California lawmakers to produce an ambitious package of bills. Some of those proposals fell short in 2020 — but the recommendations to Newsom could revive them next year with fresh momentum.

Context: One of the policing bills that did not survive would have created a duty for law enforcement officers to intervene when they observe colleagues using excessive force — and could have resulted in them being disqualified from serving if they failed to do so. CA AB1022 (19R) died in the Senate Appropriations Committee amid broad law enforcement opposition.

Davis and Simon suggested the Legislature could take up bills requiring officers to “intervene to prevent or stop other officers from engaging in excessive force, false arrest, or other inappropriate conduct” and to “report the misconduct of other officers.”

Another bill, CA AB66 (19R), would have limited the use of non-lethal munitions like tear gas and rubber bullets to manage protests. The measure stalled without getting a full vote on the floor of either house.

After citing “disturbing and well-documented instances of unnecessary and counterproductive aggression, instigation, and over-reaction” by law enforcement to widespread demonstrations this year, Davis and Simon suggested legislation to “restrict the use of less-lethal projectiles and chemical agents to defensive actions to protect life, repel serious assaults, and, when other means have been exhausted or are not feasible, to disrupt the significant destruction of property.”

What happens next? Social justice advocates are watching to see if these proposals resurface in 2021 — and if Newsom deploys some political capital to get them across the finish line. Similarly, after a bill to decertify wayward peace officers collapsed this year, Newsom signaled in a separate veto message that he wanted to take the issue up in 2021.

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