California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a series of police reform bills that allow the state the power to decertify officers guilty of misconduct, among other changes focusing on police accountability and reform.
The SB2 bill, otherwise known as the “Kenneth Ross Jr. Initiative,” aims to increase police accountability by giving the state of California the power to decertify officers. The bill is named after 25-year-old Kenneth Ross Jr. who was shot in 2018 while running away from a Gardena police officer.
Importantly, the bill grants the state the power to decertify officers after conviction of misconduct, and prevents guilty officers from moving to other departments – a measure that Newsom said 46 other states have already authorized. It also prevents officers convicted of a felony from “regaining eligibility” to work as a police officer.
Officer misconduct is defined as excessive force, sexual assault, and even a “demonstration of bias and dishonesty.”
State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat who authored the bill, said the measure will end “the wash, rinse and repeat cycle of police misconduct,” a practice by which officers can quit one department before they are fired and then relocate to a different department.
“This bill is not just about holding bad officers accountable for their misconduct. It’s also about rebuilding trust between our communities and law enforcement,” Bradford added.
The measure reverses a law established 18 years ago when legislators stripped decertification power from the state police standards commission, leaving it to local agencies to decide whether officers should be fired.
Newsom also signed bills that raise the minimum age requirement to become a sworn officer from 18 to 21, and that limit the use of rubber bullets and tear gas against protestors, according to ABC News.
Bradford explained more about the name of the bill at the signing ceremony.
“I’ve lived here 52 years. I knew every officer by first name. When I heard about this shooting I did not know who this officer was and the reason why is because he transferred from Orange County after being involved in three questionable shootings there,” the Assemblyman said.
In addition to SB2, Newsom signed the George Floyd Bill and Bill AB490. The former requires officers to intervene if they witness a colleague using excessive force or face the same punishment as their colleague, while the latter bans officers from using restraints that can lead to “positional asphyxia.”
Finally, the PEACE Act raises the minimum age requirement for an officer to 21, while also requiring officers to receive higher education from community colleges that teach subjects such as psychology, ethnic studies, history, law and emotional intelligence.
“This framework will equip officers with the skills necessary for de-escalation while also guaranteeing they develop an understanding of the history of communities from diverse backgrounds and cultures,” Assemblyman Reggie Sawyer said.
The sweeping reform legislation comes a year after Newsom signed a bill banning police from using chokeholds.
Newsom praised the reforms as “another step toward healing and justice for all.”