Assemblymember Kevin McCarty
7th Assembly District
AB 1506: Peace Officers: CA Deadly Force Accountability Act
Introduced by Assemblymembers McCarty, Bauer-Kahan, Berman, Bloom, Bonta, Burke, Carrillo, Chiu, Chu, Eggman, Friedman, Gabriel, C. Garcia, Gipson, Gloria, Gonzalez, Grayson, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kalra, Kamlager, Levine, Medina, Muratsuchi, Quirk, Reyes, L. Rivas, R. Rivas, Santiago, Stone, Ting, Weber, and Wicks
Senators Allen, Beall, Bradford, Durazo, Gonzalez, Hueso, Mitchell, Pan, Stern, Wieckowski, and Weiner
Sponsor: Author Sponsored
Staff Contact: Maria Alvarez, (916) 319-2007
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, this bill would provide independent, accountable and transparent oversight of police deadly-force. Specifically, AB 1506 would: 1) establish the Statewide Officer Deadly Force Investigation Division within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to, upon request of a law enforcement agency or District Attorney, conduct an investigation into an officer-involved deadly-force incident, provide written findings, and if applicable, conduct the prosecution of the officer(s) involved; and 2) establish a Police Practices Division within the DOJ to, upon request, review the “patterns and practices” of a local law enforcement agency, and provide recommendations and action items for improvement.
The horrific murder of George Floyd has led to a global outcry to end police brutality and demand an increased level of independent, accountable and transparent oversight of officer-involved deadly-force incidents.
In California alone, there have been almost 800 fatal shootings by police since 2015, yet less than five independent investigations have been conducted.
While the vast majority of law enforcement officers, from county prosecutors to police officers, act in accordance with appropriate professional and ethical standards, the current process of local district attorneys investigating local police is fraught with bias and conflicts of interest. Since prosecutors and police officers are essentially colleagues, it raises questions about the impartiality of “findings”. In 2016 a Stanford Law School study, “At Arm’s Length: Improving Criminal Investigations of Police Shootings,” determined that police departments and district attorneys lack the independence and incentive to investigate one of their own.
In addition, a 2015 report of The U.S. Conference of Mayors Working Group of Mayors and Police Chiefs on Police-Community Relations also called for independent investigations.
Further, the lack of accountability and transparency has created enormous mistrust between law enforcement and the residents they aim to protect and serve. The current appetite for reform, both at the national and local level, to create a fairer and more transparent process for deadly force cases is huge and immediate.
In March 2015, the Obama Administration released the “President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” with recommendations and action items to strengthen community policing and trust among law enforcement and the communities they serve. The report calls for increasing transparency and eliminating or minimizing bias for law enforcement agencies. In addition, the task force encouraged policies that mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use-of-force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.
Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut have enacted policies to require independent investigations when a police officer is involved in the death of a civilian. California must follow suit and provide an independent, accountable and transparent solution.
AB 1506 is based upon then-CA Attorney General Kamala Harris’s 2016 proposal to create three new teams within the DOJ to conduct criminal investigations of officer-involved shootings.
Law enforcement audits are equally important to prevent these tragic deaths. In the last few years, local entities including Sacramento, San Francisco and Vallejo, requested audits by the AG’s office of their law enforcement agencies’ “patterns and practices”. These audits have been well received and resulted in positive changes based on the AG’s recommendations. These improvements and changes in policy ensure greater protections and safety for police officers and the communities they serve.