New California Law Changes How Fatal Police Shootings Of Unarmed People Are Investigated
Speaker 1: 00:00 Last week, California attorney general, Rob Bonta announced guidelines for the state department of justice to investigate all fatal officer involved shootings of unarmed civilians in California. These new protocols stem from the passage of last year's assembly, bill 1506, which called for the formal establishment of California police shooting investigation teams. Bonta has said he hopes the new guidelines will strengthen accountability and transparency and investigations of officer involved shootings. Joining me now with more on the implications of this legislation is the executive director of community advocates for justice and moral governance, Genevieve Jones. Right? Genevieve. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:42 Thank you so much for having me so first, Speaker 1: 00:44 How will this legislation change? How fatal officer involved shootings are investigated? Well, Speaker 2: 00:49 The first thing is that we're actually going to have the attorney General's office do these investigations. And what that means is that for community members, this will be seen as a more neutral and attached body looking into fatalities at the hands of law enforcement officers in California. The next thing that this bill does is it requires the attorney General's office to establish a unit by 2023, that would upon request of local police departments review the local police department's use of force policies. And so, as you can see, this bill is very transformative in a lot of ways, and I think it will be great for our state. And Speaker 1: 01:32 So what will be the major changes in how officer involved shootings are investigated here in San Diego? Speaker 2: 01:38 What I believe we will see in San Diego is more of a review of these shootings that has more transparency, where the attorney general will release a report that gives the basis for the determination as to whether there was a criminal offense or whether there should be the prosecution of a police officer. This is something we have not seen before. And another thing in San Diego that we haven't seen before our members of law enforcement actually be prosecuted for killing an unarmed civilian. And so we may see a change in that. So Speaker 1: 02:09 Now with this legislation, does that mean that the California police shooting investigation teams will show up on the scene of a fatal officer involved shooting and start the investigation process start collecting evidence? Or is this something that will still be investigated the same only having this investigations team look into Speaker 2: 02:27 It? My understanding is that people from the attorney's general office, people who are in these specialized units, who will only deal with the officer involved shootings that end in fatalities will be deployed on the scene and we'll investigate what role Speaker 1: 02:43 Will San Diego's commission on police practices play in implementing and observing these new protocols. Speaker 2: 02:49 As we look to the implementation of measure B, which revamped our former community review board and established independent commissional police practices, while we await the finalized ordinance, it's a little difficult to tell how they will work in tandem. But what we do know is that these are community members who will be looking at and investigating complaints of police misconduct and also things like police shootings and killings. And so I think that we have the opportunity to see both of those entities work together, as it relates to fatalities. Speaker 1: 03:30 How does this new guidance offer new pathways to justice for victims of police violence? Well, Speaker 2: 03:36 You know, we constantly say that no one is above the law. And when there's a failure to prosecute law enforcement officers for criminal behavior, or when community members feel that the district attorney is not fairly assessing all of the evidence available, or it's not applying the facts to the law and an impartial manner or without bias, it begins to erode trust if there was ever a trust there, but it definitely cuts against this idea that justice should be pursued on behalf of all victims. So with this bill, I am hopeful that when the attorney General's office does these independent investigations, they will once start to establish trust in those communities and community members will be able to trust the process so that whatever decision is made. And Speaker 1: 04:23 What's been the initial response from the community to this change in protocol. Speaker 2: 04:27 I think the community is hopeful. I believe that the community sees this as, again, a first good step, because there has been a lot of mistrust of the district attorney's office and prosecuting law enforcement officers when they do kill unarmed civilians. I think they look to the state as being more neutral and detached and therefore they would be more fair and their investigations and assessing the facts of what happened. Speaker 1: 04:53 How has law enforcement responding to the establishment of these new investigation teams? Speaker 2: 04:57 I can say that the district attorney's office itself says that it welcomes state involvement, but here's what I would say. The proof is going to be in the pudding. This bill does not put every single officer involved shooting on the plate of the attorney general. This is only a review and investigation into those killings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement. So that means that the district attorney and local police agencies are still going to be investigating on their own, any police shooting that doesn't result in a fatality or any police shooting that results in a fatality where someone actually was armed. And so what I'm hoping is that even if they say this as a welcome change, that it will actually inform how they look into investigations and how they can be more transparent with the community about how they have resolved investigations. Speaker 1: 05:50 I've been speaking with Genevieve Jones, right? Executive director of community advocates for just and moral governance. Genevieve, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me.