New California police reform laws will bring more training for San Diego police
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Come January. First of next year, policing in California will be different. Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law reform bills that address use of force accountability and training for officers. It's a major step forward for communities who have been pushing for police reform. So what's in the legislation and what impact will it have on police and the people they serve joining me to discuss the legislation is community advocate, Genevieve Jones, right? Who was also executive director of community advocates for just and moral governance. Genevieve. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:32)
Hello. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (00:35)
Police reform is something you've been advocating for first. What is your reaction to governor Newsome signing these reforms into law?
Speaker 2: (00:43)
It is about time. Our constitutional rights are virtually meaningless. If law enforcement officers in particular and other state actors can simply violate our rights with impunity and no repercussions. And with these laws being placed on the books, we are closer to having more checks and balances that are very much needed. We are getting very close to ending this culture of impunity for law enforcement officers and deterring and preventing unlawful misconduct. And
Speaker 1: (01:17)
One of the laws that stands out deals with accountability by creating a decertification system, it prevents an officer from being employed by another law enforcement agency. Should they be found to have engaged in misconduct? How important is this aspect of police reform?
Speaker 2: (01:33)
It's very important. California is seen largely as a leader on the criminal justice front, but in many ways we actually lag behind other jurisdictions. And SB two is an example of that before SB two was signed into law, California was just one of only four states that did not have a decertification process. And so I'm very pleased that we do now have this process in place, which puts us on the right side of things. But we also have to understand that last year SB two was introduced as SB 7 31 and for whatever reason, it was not signed into law event. And it was only signed into law just last week.
Speaker 1: (02:11)
And the new laws also address the use of restraints and rubber bullets. Can you talk a bit about that and what use of force legislation stands out to you?
Speaker 2: (02:21)
I obviously agree that we needed this law on the books, but at the same time, I think that there are opportunities for us to add to this law. And with this particular law that was carried by assembly woman, Lorena Gonzalez right here in San Diego, we are finally seeing these very basic standards that will help to prevent unnecessary use of dangerous weapons on people who are community members and who are engaging in their constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest. And now they can do that hopefully without risking being severely maimed or injured. As we have seen right here in San Diego county. When you look at
Speaker 1: (03:14)
Some of the cases that have happened here locally, how do you think these laws could have changed outcomes?
Speaker 2: (03:20)
I am thinking about Ms. Leslie for a crime, and I don't know that this particular law would have changed anything, which is why I think that we may need to come back and revisit it and make stronger language. And the reason why I say this is because although a B 48 requires officers to be trained on the use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents in a safe manner, it does not speak to the situations that made Ms. Fulcrums injuries arise. For example, we already had laws on the books through our local police department policies and procedures that prohibited, aiming these weapons at certain parts of a person's body. And Ms [inaudible] was shot in her head. And so that's already prohibited, but also what happened in Ms for Crohn's case was that the officer who used the weapon that blinded Ms. [inaudible], he was not trained on the use of that weapon.
Speaker 2: (04:29)
And he also shot that weapon at a very long distance, which data and the policy show was a very unreliable distance. We need legislation that will speak to officers, not shooting at unreliable distances and actually prohibiting that. We also have a lot of vague language about what situations can warrant the use of these types of weapons. And although we call them less lethal again, thinking about Ms [inaudible], she was blinded and it is a very subjective standard with the language and AB 45. And usually our courts and our prosecutors defer to officers. And what they say as it relates to what a dangerous situation is. There's also some concern about officers being able to create through their language, the need to use these types of weapons during peaceful protest. I believe that the majority of the protests in Lamesa were peaceful ones. Um, but folks can point and say that because there was a bank building on fire at one point that it was not peaceful. And then they can use that to justify the use of the weapons that were used on Ms. [inaudible]. And that is very concerning for me.
Speaker 1: (05:54)
How do you think these laws will ultimately change policing and the relationship between officers and the communities they serve here?
Speaker 2: (06:01)
I want to remain optimistic about the impact of such legislation. So I will say that these laws will hopefully start to challenge police officers in a way that they've never been challenged before that they will think twice and even three times before engaging in some of the behaviors they have engaged in before the use of lethal weapons, um, the use of excessive force that they will start to think about the repercussions and the consequences that can come upon them while engaging with community members. Well, more so than that, I really want these police officers to look at community members as the human beings that they are. And I'm hoping that some of this legislation will get us closer towards that end.
Speaker 1: (06:50)
I've been speaking with community advocate, Genevieve Jones, Wright, who is also executive director of community advocates for just and moral governance. Genevieve, thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: (07:02)
Thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure.
Changes are coming to local police departments after two new laws were signed Thursday by Governor Gavin Newsom. One will limit police use of projectiles during protests, the other will create a more robust police accountability system.
The projectiles law was born out of racial justice protests last summer in La Mesa, when police used projectiles to subdue the crowd. A police bean bag hit Leslie Furcron, a 59-year old grandmother, hospitalizing her for a week.
Those events led San Diego Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez to author AB 48. It explicitly prohibits police from using rubber bullets, bean bags and tear gas during a protest unless someone’s life is in danger, or it’s a last resort in a crowd to quell a dangerous situation.
The law also mandates more training for police on how to use these tools during protests, and requires police to attempt de-escalation techniques first. It also prohibits officers from firing into a crowd or aiming at the head.
"What got out of hand last summer was the widespread usage, people were using it who didn’t understand how to use it correctly," Gonzalez told KPBS.
She added that if after the law is passed, officers are still using projectiles unnecessarily, she can update the law.
"You're hopeful when you write legislation, you hope it will be used in the way you imagine, but if it doesn’t you go back and fix it," she said.
The law will also require police departments to collect data on when and how projectiles were used and publish reports. That data will help lawmakers know whether it's working, Gonzalez said.
"If this doesn’t result in fewer injuries, which I think it will, we’ll have the data to show what’s happening so we can fix it," she said.
Advocates are relieved to see the new law after a nearly replica bill failed to pass last year. But Khalid Alexander, founder of Pillars of the Community, a local nonprofit that’s been advocating for police reform for years, said the law is also not enough.
"It would have been nice if they had done that a long time ago, but I think it's an important step moving forward to protect citizens of the United States who are practicing their right to freedom of speech and to protest and all of these things," he said. "As somebody who believes that there are deep seated problems in our systems of policing and law enforcement in this country, there are very few kind of laws that I think go far enough. Having said that, I think it's important that we celebrate all of the steps, no matter how small and how incremental they are."
Police need better training on how and why to use less lethal weapons during riots, but they shouldn’t be banned, said Travis Norton, a police use of force trainer who specializes in less-lethal weapons.
"If these tools are banned, our only options are batons or lethal force," he said. "One of the questions I ask when someone says we want to ban impact munitions or chemical munitions is what is the the alternative?' and really there’s been no major breakthroughs in less lethal technology for the last 20 years."
He said the federal government needs to provide more funding for new less lethal options for law enforcement. Currently, the flight characteristics of impact munitions can be unpredictable and so the risk of injury is high, he said, which is why police need better equipment and better training.
"You need to infuse decision making exercises into your training," he said. "It’s not OK to go to the range and fire off a few impact munitions and call it a day and say that’s a great training program, let’s talk about the decision to even fire in the first place."
Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a statewide police union, said in a statement that non-lethal force options are "important tools that can help to de-escalate and bring an objectively dangerous and unlawful situation safely and effectively under control."
He said he appreciates Gonzalez for her "collaboration with law enforcement throughout the process of establishing this new law that will ensure the proper use of these non-lethal methods by law enforcement as they seek to maintain the safety of both the public and themselves when Californians exercise their right to assemble and protest."
Another law signed by the governor this week could also have big impacts on local police. SB 2, co-authored by San Diego state Senator Toni Atkins, gives the state’s police commission the power to decertify officers for wrongdoing. That means they can’t easily get a new job at a different police department.
Officers can now lose their certification for serious misconduct including using excessive force, committing sexual assault, intimidating witnesses, making a false arrest or report, or participating in a law enforcement gang. Other grounds include "demonstrating bias" based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or mental disability, among other criteria.
This type of accountability is needed, said Alexander.
"Being able to hold police accountable, just like holding any professional accountable for misconduct, for committing crimes and not allowing them to continue to be hired, I think is another very, very important first step," he said.
Prior to the law being passed, California was just one of four states that didn’t have a decertification process, alongside Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Both laws will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.