Calif. bill calls for more frequent state investigation of UOF incidents

The proposed bill would allow local LE agencies to more regularly request a formal review by the attorney general of use of force incidents

Hannah Wiley
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Amid national protests over police brutality and calls for changes to how officers do their jobs, a California Democrat wants the state Department of Justice to more often handle independent investigations into incidents of deadly force.

Assembly Bill 1506 would allow local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to more regularly request the attorney general to launch a formal review of situations where an officer used force that resulted in death or harm. The Department of Justice would have to review the incident and, upon its conclusion, could pursue prosecution should that force be found unwarranted.

The proposal would also create a new police practices division by 2023 in the department that would specifically handle requests by local agencies to review policies and practices related to use-of-force.

It’s the second time Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, has attempted legislation that would increase scrutiny over when and how police employ deadly force. A similar effort in 2017 was killed in the Senate.

A coalition of moderate Assembly Democrats and Republicans voted then against the bill.

McCarty said he hopes national attention on police killings of black men, specifically of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a white officer, will lead to policy shifts.

“This has brought attention to smart police reforms, and this bill, to be honest, isn’t that complicated,” McCarty said. “Having independent investigations is a common sense proposal.”

The attorney general can already investigate deadly force incidents. After the 2018 shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, a Black man from Sacramento killed by white officers, the DOJ determined after its review that no criminal charges could be pursued, an echo of what District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert had also determined.

“My bill would make it more of the norm and create a process that has more trust by the public, by the community, by those affected,” McCarty said.

McCarty is using a process called “gut and amend” to replace the current version of AB 1506, which has already passed the Assembly, with the new police accountability language.

Congressional Democrats are also pushing for similar ideas in a bill that would aim to increase accountability within police departments and prohibit certain tactics like chokeholds.

The federal legislation would provide grant money for attorneys general to investigate incidents of excessive force, which Sen. Kamala Harris has called for in recent weeks. She did not endorse McCarty’s bill two years ago.

McCarty said he’s talking with Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office, as well as law enforcement groups who opposed the effort two years ago, on details of the legislation.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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