When the California legislature wrapped up its session for the year the other night and press reporters described the "mayhem" in the Capitol, it became clear that state law enforcement had helped block all of the police reform laws that were in place in the Black Lives Matter protests. In the meantime, the police keep shooting and killing black people.
The day lawmakers went out of business, LA County's sheriffs shot Dijon Kizzee in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Westmont. Najee Ali, a community activist, was quoted by the LA Times as saying, "The MPs essentially executed a man who rides a bicycle."
"They'll say he had a gun, but they won't say that he wasn't armed with the gun. He didn't aim the gun. … There was no reason for MPs to shoot a running man."
After the murder, MPs said that Kizzee rode a bicycle in violation of the vehicle code. Shot and killed for violating the vehicle code while cycling. (How many times have you breached your bike's vehicle code?)
A number of police reform bills were blocked up at the Capitol, along with other deals. They said "chaos broke out", that there were "technological problems" and that lawmakers used anything as a cover to hide the obvious and powerful influence of law enforcement lobbying.
Senator Steven Bradford's bill proposed revoking badges from the officials concerned, but she fell victim. Along with other legislative proposals, such as one to give citizens access to more police records and one to restrict the use of tear gas and rubber bullets during protests. As the LA Times noted, "Her death marks the end of a legislature that began with more than a dozen proposals for greater accountability and scrutiny in law enforcement and ended with a handful of humble victories."
Overall, it was evidence that the law enforcement unions in the Capitol are still seriously influencing, especially when aided by clutter in the late session. Some reform advocates were surprised. "A lot of us didn't really anticipate as much resistance as we got," said Melina Abdullah, founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, who co-sponsored Bradford's bill. "I find it outrageous and tragic."
Sure, California lawmakers faced the challenge of a lifetime, which had to do with a massive budget deficit, forest fires, eviction cliffs, unemployment, and the pandemic.
So it's easy to paint a picture of chaos as lawmakers are overwhelmed and scared of even going to work. Yet …
- Bradford's bill, SB 731, quickly became the main target of police unions, almost all dissatisfied with his plan for a strong civic inspection commission that included family members of victims of police violence.
- Law enforcement interests have targeted a move, SB 776, by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) to make more records of police personnel available to the public.
- Police unions quietly wooed friendly lawmakers, complaining about the rush of these bills and urging them to be postponed until next year.
- Rep. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) took action that had been the victim of police lobbying weeks earlier. The bill would have made it clear how and when officials had to intervene if a colleague had used excessive force. it died on committee weeks ago. Holden said the unions had put "hard pressure" on making sure they didn't move forward. He said he hadn't received clear feedback on why the bill wasn't moving forward. Just note that this is not the case.
Holden added that over the past few weeks at the Capitol, he has seen a growing trend where "an atmosphere and setting that matches (a law enforcement) narrative and is basically," Not now. So, OK, you won this round. not now."
It came down to the broader "universe" of law enforcement interests in the Capitol, where police unions, pooling their efforts to pull together all the district attorneys' associations and sheriffs, are simply a formidable force. A power that has money and clearly its influence is back and huge. It was damaged last year when lawmakers passed legislation to redefine when officials can use lethal force.
All the lobbyists said, "Next year, next year, next year we will work with you …" But how many black men and women will be shot and mutilated or mutilated by then? How many protesters will rubber bullets ricochet off their faces and how many people will suffocate from tear gas by then?
Police reform? Ha! We don't need a police reform!