Tag Archives: California regulation

Bill would have California join 46 other states in allowing decertification of bad cops

California bill aims to decertify police for serious misconduct

Currently the state does not have the power to permanently remove law enforcement officers from their jobs

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Robert Lewis, CalMatters, July 26, 2021
Police create a blockade as protesters attempt to walk onto the eastbound span of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Red states such as Florida and Georgia lead the way in decertifying officers with past problems, while there is no decertification in two of the bluest and biggest in the country – California and New Jersey. (Jose Carlos Fajardo — Bay Area News Group file)

On a Wednesday afternoon in April 2018, Gardena police officers got a “triple beeper” over their radios — three high-pitched squawks signaling an emergency. As many as 20 shots reportedly had been fired near a local park.

“That kind of gets you a little adrenaline squirt going,” Gardena Police Officer Michael Robbins would later tell investigators.

In minutes, a 25-year-old Black man, Kenneth Ross Jr., was dead — shot twice and killed by Officer Robbins as he ran past Rowley Park. Police said a gun was found in the dead man’s shorts pocket, and Robbins would later be cleared by local authorities of any wrongdoing.

But the case was far from over.

What happened on April 11, 2018 — which led to immediate cries for police accountability and demonstrations — is now a centerpiece of a bill that is arguably California’s biggest criminal justice proposal this legislative session.

TEXT AND HISTORY OF THE BILL: SB-2 Peace officers: certification: civil rights. (2021-2022), leginfo.legislature.ca.gov

The bill (The Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021) would allow California to decertify police officers for misconduct — effectively stripping them of a license to work in law enforcement and kicking them out of the profession. California is one of only four states in the country without such power. As a result, a number of high-profile cases have been reported over the years where an officer involved in a questionable shooting was allowed to remain on the streets, only to kill again. Officers also have been fired for wrongdoing in one department, then quietly moved on to another agency.

“California is able to revoke the certification or license of bad doctors, bad lawyers, even bad barbers and cosmetologists — you can even recall an elected official — but is unable to decertify police officers who have broken the law and violated public trust,” state Sen. Steven Bradford said at a committee hearing earlier this year. Bradford, a Gardena Democrat who chairs the public safety committee and lives near where the shooting took place, introduced the bill along with Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

In the Gardena shooting, local law enforcement — as it typically does in such cases — investigated the shooting. The district attorney’s office cleared Robbins of wrongdoing because it said the officer believed the man running away from him was armed and might reasonably have feared for his life

But criminal justice reform advocates say for too long police accountability has been solely in the hands of local agencies — police policing themselves. They question if the man Robbins shot in the back was truly a threat running away and point out it was the officer’s fourth shooting, suggesting he was too quick to use deadly force.

Bradford’s bill is the latest effort to break through the wall of legal protections built up over the years that critics say shield California law enforcement officers from accountability. CalMatters was only able to obtain internal police reports and videos regarding the Gardena shooting because a 2018 law for the first time opened certain law enforcement records, including files pertaining to use of deadly force and some misconduct. Another law that went into effect this year requires the state attorney general’s office to handle investigations regarding police killings of unarmed civilians.

“This nation has cried out — especially in Black and brown communities — for change,” Bradford told CalMatters, ticking off a list of high-profile police killings and use of force incidents from Stephon Clark in Sacramento to Oscar Grant in Oakland to Rodney King in Los Angeles. “It’s definitely overdue.”

But there’s still work to be done, he added.

“It’s one thing to pass legislation. It’s another to change the mindset and internal training and operations of law enforcement,” Bradford said.

People attend a rally for Mario Gonzalez outside the Alameda police headquarters in Alameda, Calif., on Monday, May, 3 2021. Gonzalez died in custody while being restrained by Alameda police on April 19. (Jane Tyska — Bay Area News Group file)

And his bill is far from certain, as police associations and chiefs from around the state have signaled their opposition.

“No one wants to see bad officers removed from law enforcement more than good officers do,” said Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, in a statement to CalMatters.

“When an officer acts in a way that is grossly inconsistent with the missions and goals of our profession, it tarnishes the badge and the great work being done day in and day out by officers keeping our families and communities safe.”

But he added that the bill as written creates a “biased and unclear process for revoking an officer’s license.

The bill would create a new division within the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to investigate or review possible misconduct. A nine-member advisory board would consider the evidence and recommend whether to strip an officer of certification. The majority of that board would be civilians without policing experience, including four members who would be experts on “police accountability” and two who either personally suffered from an officer’s use of force or lost a loved one to such an incident. The commission would have final say on decertification,  but language in the bill suggests they’d be expected to adopt the advisory board’s recommendations when reasonably supported by evidence.

As for what constitutes wrongdoing that could cost an officer their career, it’s unclear. The bill includes categories such as sexual assault and dishonesty but would leave it to the commission to develop a full definition of “serious misconduct” that also includes broader areas such as “abuse of power” and “physical abuse.”

“We all want to see a fair and transparent decertification system put in place that permanently removes officers for serious misconduct, but even with recent amendments (the bill) fails to create a balanced and even process,” said Abdul Pridgen, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, in an email to CalMatters. “However, we remain committed to continuing our work with the Governor’s office, legislative leaders, and Senator Bradford to address our remaining concerns and establish a decertification process we can all have faith in.”

Among the sticking points for the association is the makeup of the advisory board, the degree to which that board’s recommendations are binding and what will happen if a local department exonerates an officer but the state commission finds wrongdoing.

decertification bill failed last session. The current bill made it out of the Senate but not without changes. The initial version had made it easier for civilians to sue officers for misconduct, but that language is largely gone.

More recent amendments reduce the role of the advisory board. Bradford’s spokesperson said those changes were made after working with the governor’s office and key lawmakers. The original bill gave the advisory board the power to direct the commission to investigate certain officers. The new version, however, simply says the board can recommend investigations. It also drops a licensing fee on officers.

Police unions have been donating to some Democrat lawmakers who could play a role in forcing further changes — news that prompted a sharp tweet from Sen. Bradford accusing opponents of trying to “kill solid policy.”

“If you can’t win on the merit of your argument, you resort to paying off legislators?? SHAMEFUL, BUT NOT SURPRISING!!,” he tweeted.

Advocates said they’re concerned powerful police associations will further weaken the bill.

“They’re trying to duck accountability time and time again,” said Sheila Bates, a member of the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles policy team and part of the coalition co-sponsoring the bill. “Had (Gardena Police Officer) Michael Robbins been held accountable the first, second, or third time when he shot somebody, then Kenneth Ross Jr. might still be alive.”

Records from the shooting investigation show that as Officer Robbins got near the scene he saw other officers arriving and Ross, who matched the suspect’s description, running away. Robbins parked, grabbed his assault rifle and shouted for Ross to stop.

“You’re going to get shot,” Robbins yelled.

Video from his body-worn camera shows what happened next.

Standing behind the engine block of his squad car for cover, the barrel of Robbins’ rifle tracks Ross’ movement. Just after Ross crosses in front of Robbins’ position, maybe 100 feet away, the officer gives the trigger two quick taps. (“I gave him…a double tap that was just amazing, training just kicked in,” he told investigators later.) Ross falls to the ground dead.

It was the fourth time Robbins shot at someone in his nearly 30-year career, although his first shooting since the early 2000’s, he later said.

The Gardena Police Department, which is currently facing a lawsuit over the shooting, declined an interview request. Attorneys representing the officer also did not comment for this story.

As for Robbins, the pending decertification bill likely wouldn’t affect him. He retired from the Gardena Police Department in July 2020 with the rank of sergeant, records show. But if future officers are kicked out of the profession, it will be because of a bill named after the man he killed.

Next month, lawmakers will be taking up the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021.

‘Insulting’: California police reform bills die without vote

State takes small steps toward reform

Vallejo Times-Herald, By Nico Savidge, September 3, 2020
[See also: Associated Press, California bill to strip badges from ‘bad officers’ fails]

Three months ago, with protests against racism and police brutality gripping the state and nation, California lawmakers had plans for new legislation that would make sweeping changes to law enforcement.

But as their session came to a chaotic end at midnight Tuesday, state legislators had only approved a handful of relatively modest changes to police practices, while more controversial proposals — to strip problem officers of their badges, broaden public access to police misconduct records and limit the use of rubber bullets and tear gas at protests — died without the votes they needed to pass.

The defeat of those measures, coming in the Democrat- dominated Legislature of a state that positions itself as a beacon of progressive government, is a stinging disappointment for activists, civil liberties groups and lawmakers, who believed the time had come for major changes meant to bolster police accountability and transparency.

“To ignore the thousands of voices calling for meaningful police reform is insulting,” Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, said in a statement early Tuesday morning after his bill to “decertify” officers who commit crimes or serious misconduct failed to get a vote in the final hours Monday. “Today, Californians were once again let down by those who were meant to represent them.”

Policing wasn’t the only issue that left advocates and lawmakers unsatisfied — bills that passed for eviction protections and housing also fell short of what many hoped to see in the shortened legislative session that was upended by the coronavirus.

The law enforcement bills lawmakers did approve included a requirement that state authorities investigate certain deadly police shootings, as well as a ban on the carotid “sleeper” restraint a Minneapolis officer used in the deadly arrest of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

But Dennis Cuevas-Romero, a legislative advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, noted that many police departments have already prohibited officers from using the carotid restraint. Gov. Gavin Newsom also directed the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training after Floyd’s death to no longer offer training on the tactic.

And while Cuevas-Romero said having state authorities investigate police shootings “could be really significant,” he also noted that the bill only requires the state to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians, as opposed to all deaths at the hands of police.

“This was our concern from the very beginning, when all the police reform legislation was introduced,” Cuevas-Romero said. “The ones that were less impactful would be the ones that make it to the finish line,” allowing lawmakers to claim victory “without actually doing significant reform.”

The ACLU cosponsored Bradford’s decertification bill. California is one
of only five states that doesn’t have such a process, and an investigation by this news organization found dozens of police officers with criminal records were still working in departments across the state.

Bradford’s bill also would have rolled back some of the legal protection known as “qualified immunity,” which shields officers from liability in many excessive force lawsuits. Activists charge the legal doctrine is a significant barrier to holding police accountable, and the bill got a late lobbying push from a raft of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West and Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma.

Law enforcement groups say they are open to creating a decertification process, and have called for a special session of the Legislature to create one. But they vehemently opposed the bill’s limits to qualified immunity, which helped make it the most controversial of this year’s police reform proposals.

“We are pleased that the late-session rush to enact a flawed bill that would have had debilitating repercussions for police officers and public safety was not voted upon,” Craig Lally, the president of the union representing Los Angeles police officers, said in a statement after Bradford’s bill failed. “It is more important to get it right and not rushed, and we pledge our cooperation to work collaboratively with likeminded stakeholders and the legislature to get it right.”

Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said the shortened session made it difficult for his organization representing more than 75,000 police officers to negotiate with lawmakers. In the next session, Marvel said, “We will have a much better opportunity to collaboratively work with the authors on creating legislation.”

Bradford pledged to bring his proposal back next year.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said she would do the same with her bill sharply limiting the use of rubber bullets and tear gas, prompted by what critics derided as a heavyhanded police response to racial justice demonstrations. That bill, which also faced opposition from police lobbying groups, similarly never came up for a vote Monday night.

Newsom orders all California counties to close indoor restaurants, shut down bars

[BenIndy editor: See also video of Newsom’s press conference on ABC7.  – R.S.]
San Francisco Chronicle, by Dustin Gardiner, July 13, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a coronavirus-related briefing in Pittsburg on July 1.
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a coronavirus-related briefing in Pittsburg on July 1. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered every county in California to close indoor restaurants, movie theaters and wineries Monday as the state combats a surge in coronavirus cases.

He also ordered bars to cease all operations, indoor and outdoor, throughout the state.

Newsom had previously directed 30 counties on the state’s “watch list” due to surging outbreaks to close business operations in those sectors. But Newsom said the order will now extend to all 58 California counties.

Newsom’s statewide closure order applies to a host of other indoor spaces: zoos, museums, cardrooms and family entertainment centers. Those establishments are still allowed to operate outdoors in most counties, including restaurant patios.

In addition, Newsom ordered the 30 counties on the state watch list to close gyms, churches, offices for non-critical work sectors, shopping malls and barbershops and hair salons.

More than 80% percent of California’s population lives in those 30 counties. In the Bay Area, the list includes Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

The governor said the order comes as hospitalizations and new cases continue to surge, and some rural counties, such as Placer and Lake counties, are nearing bed capacity in hospital intensive care units.

“This virus is not going away any time soon,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID -19 is not going away any time soon, until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy.”

California regulators restore emissions-cutting fuel rule

Repost from the Associated Press

California regulators restore emissions-cutting fuel rule

By Judy Lin, Sep. 25, 2015 5:49 PM EDT
Mary NIchols, Barbara Riordan
Mary Nichols, left, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, applauds after the board restored ambitious rules to cut transportation fuel emissions 10 percent within 5 years, during a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. By a 9-0 vote the board restored rules requiring a 10 percent cut in carbon emissions on fuels sold in the state by 2020, despite oil industry objections that it could drive up gas prices. At right is ARB board member Barbara Riordan. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California regulators on Friday restored ambitious rules to cut transportation fuel emissions 10 percent within 5 years, a decision that gives Gov. Jerry Brown a boost for his climate change agenda.

The rules further strengthen California’s toughest-in-the-nation carbon emissions standards, but oil producers warn the changes could drive up costs for consumers at the gas pump.

The changes are expected to add a few cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel in the state that already has some of the highest gas prices in the nation. The state estimates a typical commuter will pay an extra $20 to $24 in 2017, increasing to $52 to $56 in 2020.

“We are on a path to reduce our dependence on petroleum and this program is a key piece of that action,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said ahead of the vote.

Brown, a Democrat, has vowed to intensify his fight against climate change after the oil lobby helped kill a Democratic legislative proposal earlier this month to slash statewide petroleum use by half in 15 years. The board is the state’s top regulatory agency to enforce rules aimed at reducing air pollution.

Regulators voted 9-0 to re-adopt its low-carbon fuel standard, which requires producers to cut the carbon content of fuels 10 percent by 2020 to help the state meet its emission-reductions goals.

The program was initially adopted in 2009 but the reduction target has been frozen at 1 percent because of a court fight. Friday’s vote allows the state to resume its program; modifies rules in response to industry concerns about price spikes; and gives companies more credits for using renewable hydrogen and other investments to reduce pollutants.

Supporters say the program is worthwhile because it will encourage greater use of cleaner biofuels and electric vehicles, which can be cheaper to operate than those powered by gasoline or diesel.

“This puts it back on track,” Bill Magavern, policy director at Coalition for Clean Air, an environmental advocacy group, said after the vote. “We have other programs that address vehicle technologies and vehicle miles traveled, and this is the one that tells oil companies to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels.”

Oil producers counter that the rules are unworkable and too costly. They said the standard will impact consumers as the companies try to comply with the mandate or face being shut out of the market.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents oil companies, said the low carbon fuel standard jeopardizes the state’s energy future and adds uncertainty.

“California motorists need to know what is coming and how these regulations will impact transportation fuels,” Reheis-Boyd said in a statement.

Unlike other rules the state has adopted requiring cleaner-burning fuel or more fuel-efficient vehicles, the standard, first proposed in a 2007 executive order from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calls for counting all the pollution required to deliver gasoline, diesel or alternative fuels to in-state consumers — from drilling a new oil well or planting corn to delivering it to gas stations.

In addition to tailpipe emissions, it includes factors such as whether an ethanol factory uses coal or natural gas to power production or an oil rig uses diesel fuel to drill.

Regulators are targeting transportation fuels because California’s roughly 30 million vehicles account for about 40 percent of the state’s emissions — the largest source. The rest comes from generating electricity and industrial manufacturing, as well as commercial, residential and agricultural uses.

All fuels are measured against a baseline pollution standard. If a fuel falls above or below the baseline, it generates a credit or deficit that other producers can buy and sell to meet the target.

It’s up to fuel producers to figure out how to meet the goal, whether by changing production methods, using ethanol or electric vehicles for transportation or buying credits on the market.

After the rule’s initial adoption, out-of-state refiners and ethanol companies were among those who sued, arguing that transporting the fuels into California alone made them less competitive against in-state producers. They argued the law unconstitutionally limits interstate commerce.

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a 2013 appeals court decision upholding the fuel standard.

Opponents continue to challenge the state’s authority to regulate out-of-state production. Oil firms are also trying to block a similar standard enacted in Oregon, the only other state with a clean fuel standard.

Friday’s move to restore California’s program is not related to Volkswagen drawing international attention for violating separate federal and state rules that regulate emissions from vehicles.