A bill that creates a process for decertifying police officers who have committed serious misconduct advanced in the state Assembly on Friday morning after lawmakers agreed to revise some of its most contentious provisions.
The Assembly's 46-18 vote paves the way for the state Senate to give Senate Bill 2 the final approval it needs before it heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk. While the Senate had voted on May 26 to back the legislation, numerous senators who voted to support it expressed concerns about the legislation and suggested that they may vote against the bill when it returns for final approval.
The latest amendments to the bill by Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, seek to mollify critics who had maintained that the legislation is biased against police officers by changing the makeup of the new Peace Officers Standards Accountability Advisory Board, a panel that will be charged with making recommendations on decertification.
The prior version of SB 2 allocated two of the board's nine seats to individuals who have been subject to excessive use of force by police or to family members of individuals who had been killed by the wrongful use of deadly force by police. The amended version of the bill removes this requirement and only specifies that these two members will not be former peace officers and that the governor gives "strong consideration" to individuals who have been affected by police misconduct. The bill also designates two panel seats for police officers or former police officers, two for nonprofits or academic institutions relating to police accountability and two to members of community-based organizations involved in police accountability. Another seat goes to an attorney with substantial experience in oversight of police officers.
Another amendment in SB 2 raises the threshold of votes required to decertify an officer. The Commission for Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which is currently charged with establishing standards for training and recruitment of officers, would review the recommendations of the new panel and make decisions on whether an officer should be decertified. Doing so, under the new amendment, would require a two-thirds vote of the commission's present members and only after the commission establishes that "serious misconduct has been established by clear and convincing evidence." The commission will also have the option of suspending but not revoking an officer's certification.
The Assembly's vote is a significant victory for a proposal that bill supporters view as the centerpiece of Sacramento's effort to institute police reforms following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. If the bill clears the Senate on the reconciliation vote and is signed by the governor, California would lose its status as one of just four states that don't have a process for decertifying officers who have committed serious misconduct.
Assembly member Akilah Weber, D-La Mesa, introduced the bill on the Assembly floor on Friday and urged her colleagues to approve the legislation. There are currently problematic officers, she said, who "commit misconduct in one department and are either not held accountable and continue to be a problem for that department and community or they are held accountable but are able to find employment in another department in our state."
"SB 2 is a thoughtful, well-meaning approach to this issue that affords ample due process for officers, provides necessary community repress and ensure that good officers are not decertified," Weber said.
Not everyone was convinced. Assembly member Kelly Seyarto, R-Murrieta, said that the changes don't go far enough and argued that the composition of the advisory panel remains skewed against police officers. He noted that panels that can strip certification from doctors and lawyers don't have members who had been "adversely affected by a bad surgery or bad representation."
"They have lawyers, they have professionals who know what that job is," Seyarto said. "This does not do that."
Several Bay Area assembly members, including David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, spoke in favor of SB 2, which Kalra said is "critical to ensure that we protect our communities from officers who create egregious misconduct." Assembly member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, also voted in favor of the bill, which the Palo Alto City Council has officially supported.