Calif. police unions back bill that aims to diversify PDs, add training

The bill also calls for the state to begin planning for the creation of a law enforcement degree


By Kim Bojórquez
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO — California's largest law enforcement union on Thursday announced its support for a bill that seeks to modernize training for officers and diversify police departments by creating new recruitment channels.

The bill's author state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, said Senate Bill 387, known as the Law Enforcement Academic and Recruitment Next Act, would lead to increased recruitment of potential peace officers from under-represented populations.

"Community policing is more complex than ever, and we need officers that reflect our diverse communities and adapt to their values," Portantino said in a statement.

He announced his bill with backing from the Peace Officers Research Association of California —which lobbies for California police unions — and from the California Police Chiefs Association.

The bill would create law enforcement "outreach teams" who would be asked to share their experiences with diverse communities.

That's one way police departments can diversify job candidate pools without violating the state's 1996 ban on affirmative action policies that prohibits race-based considerations in hiring.

"We must do more to show the value of a career in law enforcement as an honorable profession worthy of pursuing for all of California's youth, regardless of their background, race, gender or financial status," said Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, in a statement.

The bill also calls for the state to begin planning for the creation of a law enforcement degree that reflects "a multi-discipline approach to capture all the various skill-set requirements necessary of the modern police officer."

The bill would create a fund for potential and current peace officers to pursue a college education to help them pursue higher education or training, aiming to open the door for more candidates from varying socioeconomic backgrounds.

Additionally, it would increase coursework for prospective officers during their training and feature classes on mental health, psychology, social services, communication and other subjects.

[READ: Improving police training: Should we change subject matter or teaching methods?]

"The basic functions and duties of an officer have changed immensely over the years, but the recruitment strategies, pre-requisite training and types of education we expect our officers to have needs updating," Portantino said.

After the killing of George Floyd, a Black Minnesotan who died in law enforcement custody in May after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, police reform advocates have called for police departments to reflect their diverse communities. Others have called for more de-escalation courses for police officers to use during mental health crises, as well as racial bias training.

As of December 2020, white officers remain over-represented in the California Highway Patrol's force, accounting for 63.6% of uniformed officers, according to the department's figures.

[READ: What every PD needs in a social media recruitment plan]

One 2021 report released by the state's Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board showed that Black Californians were more likely to be stopped by officers for "reasonable suspicion" than Latinos or whites, despite accounting for 6% of the state population. The study also found that Black individuals were also more likely to be searched, detained, handcuffed and removed from their cars by officers than whites.

In Sacramento, about 65% of Sacramento Police Department employees are white, followed by Hispanics, 15%, Asian Americans, 9%, and Blacks, 5%, according to a 2020 gender and racial diversity audit of city employees. Census data shows whites account for 46% of Sacramento's population, followed by Hispanics, 29%, Asian Americans, 19% and Blacks, 13%.

Eric Nunez, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said training requirements for California officers remain among the most rigorous in the nation.

"We want to continue to lead and raise the bar not only for our in-service personnel, but our entry-level recruits, as well," Nunez said. "It has become clear that the 685-hour police academy mandated training required by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POST) is not sufficient."

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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