An Abridged Session, Recreation Artwork, and Police Opposition: Why So Many Police Reforms Failed in California's Liberal Legislature – Capital Public Radio Information
After days of nationwide protests in June following George Floyd's death under the knees of the Minneapolis police, California lawmakers knelt on the steps of the State Capitol in a moment of silence and solidarity.
They promised to pass laws and work with their communities to make them safer. It was the same day Floyd's funeral took place in Houston.
Months later, the Democrat-led legislature failed to pass several laws – one of which was dubbed the "George Floyd Law" – that addressed the same issues that kept protesters on the streets of the country.
Legislators passed a handful of police reform bills before adjourning early Tuesday morning, including measures banning police use of neck supports and demanding an independent investigation into the killing of unarmed civilians by law enforcement agencies.
But Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who sponsored perhaps the most closely watched police bill, says the measures that "would have had a direct impact on the community – these are the bills that didn't come out."
This includes his Senate Act 731, which would have created a procedure to revoke badges from officials convicted of certain crimes or charged with misconduct. The rules are designed to make so-called "Bad Apple" cops hop from department to department.
California is one of only five states – along with Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island – According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there is currently no process for decertifying the police force.
In the days following the meeting, there was much guilt about why key bills on public safety, housing and other measures failed.
Bradford accuses the political gameplay between the Chambers and members across the aisle last night. Senate Republicans forced to vote remotely after a member of their caucus tested positive for coronavirus, filibustered bills and forced the entire chamber to shut down for almost two hours.
But Bradford's bill died in the congregation, which is also controlled by Democrats.
Assembly spokesman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) told Politico It was not brought to the ground because it did not have the votes to stand. But Bradford says that's not entirely true. He claims that he and the bill's chairman, Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) had identified 31 solid yes votes, 14 others rejected yes votes – which brought approval within striking distance.
"We had our voices, but the announcer wouldn't know if he hadn't allowed us to spend our day in the sun," Bradford said in an interview with CapRadio this week.
Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
Since the bill was never brought up for debate, Bradford had no opportunity to "edit the bill" – or try to convince reluctant colleagues to cast a vote in favor of the bill if it did not immediately meet the required 41 vote threshold.
The Gardena Democrat also notes that at the same time, police reform laws stalled the Los Angeles Sheriff's MPs on Monday night shot a black man, 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee.
Police unions, banned from the Capitol due to the coronavirus, vigorously but remotely opposed the bill. "They lit the members' phones," Bradford said.
Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said while the group supported a process to decertify problem police officers, SB 731 went too far.
"With the COVID-19 process this year, many of the public safety bills have not received the audit we would have liked," Marvel said through committee hearings and regular negotiations.
He said Bradford refused to work with law enforcement groups until the legislature was almost over. "I don't think Senator Bradford and his sponsors were willing to compromise on this," he said. "They felt that with the amount of things going on nationally, they felt like they could act it out."
Marvel's main concern with the bill was the proposed composition of a board of accountability that would include three law enforcement officials and six other people with no police background. He argues that the board would have been stacked against officers immediately.
"You're setting up a process that will fail. I don't think California wants to go through that," he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) acknowledged technical problems and a partisan's spit in the early evening resulted in a shortened timer to hand over critical bills in the final hours.
"Obviously, some colleagues felt the need to have more talks," Atkins told reporters around 2 a.m. after the Senate adjourned.
In a statement Thursday Atkins and Bradford pledged to "continue the momentum behind SB 731 until the next legislature," indicating that there will not be a special session on police reform as some proponents have called for.
Other public safety bills that have stalled include one – also rejected by law enforcement groups – that would have made complaints about police violence more open to the public.
Another would have prevented police from using tear gas, rubber bullets and other “less lethal” crowd control tactics after numerous demonstrators and journalists reported injuries at summer demonstrations.
Author's meeting leader Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) reiterated her disappointment that her measure was a victim of stall tactics and a shortened clock, but blamed a group of lawmakers in particular.
"To be clear, the next nonviolent protester injured by one of these weapons in California could point directly to the dysfunction and filibustering of Senate Republicans as the reason there are still no standards for" less than lethal "violence "she said in a statement.
Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
A measure nicknamed the "George Floyd Act" requiring officials to intervene if they observed a colleague with excessive violence was withheld in early August.
Rep. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), the draftsman of the bill, said in a statement that he has still not received an explanation as to why it was not made public.
"There was no need to pass this bill, especially since it had enough support from members of the committee to get passed," he said. "Given the current widespread public outcry for police reform, it is a missed opportunity for California to take a leadership role on this issue."
Meanwhile, Senator Bradford said he wished Governor Gavin Newsom had supported police reform louder in the last few weeks of the session. "That would have been an important signal that this is important to all Californians," he said.
Looking back on the June 9 event, when he and other state lawmakers kneeled in support of George Floyd and other black people killed by the police, Bradford said for some it was just "a photo op".
"If you can take one knee for eight minutes and (46) seconds but you can't vote on a life-saving bill, I'm deeply saddened," he said.
Bradford dismissed the idea of California calling itself the national political leader and "the next attraction to come", pointing out that Florida and Georgia are among the toughest laws for police oversight and decertification.
"The southern states are doing it right," he said, "but a progressive state like California can't do the real things when it comes to police reform."